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Striking the Right Pose: Fund Ads Stress Stability


Seeing how it is going to be a very long time before mutual fund advertisements can tout three-, five- and you can just forget about one-year performance, we will be seeing more guarded, sober sales and marketing campaigns from investment managers for some time to come.

Dealing with lowered expectations in the current market conditions is as new an experience for "buy-and-hold" asset managers as it is for investors.

That's why we think mutual fund companies are doing a commendable job of reversing course. The conservative advertisements asset managers are now running are not only the reasonable, but the responsible and possibly the only probable course of action to take. And all underscore their companies' stability and call investors to action.

Charles Schwab's campaign is one that stands out. Rather than have investors talk about lower fees or personal attention, as the brokerage's previous campaigns have done, Schwab's current ads address, head-on, the market meltdown and how it's scared investors. "I planned for retirement all my life. I never planned for this," is the headline of one print ad, followed by the directive, "Do something about it. Talk to Chuck."

Fidelity has replaced the previous tagline on its campaign, "Smart move," with "Turn here," and it has been promoting its fixed income funds and even certificates of deposit. "Fidelity has the people, guidance and investments to help you find your way," the company assures in one ad.

"Ready, willing and stable," is the headline of a current print piece from Northern Trust, which assures investors it is the right choice because of its stability, including: top-tier credit quality, outstanding capital strength, a strong and liquid balance sheet and 20 consecutive years of growth in common equity.

Vanguard's home page emphasizes the company's longtime benefit of low fees, reminding investors about the "power of low costs: You can't control market performance, but you can control how much you pay for your investments. Vanguard's low-cost funds can save you money."

Insurers have been emphasizing the merits of lifetime guarantees in their annuities, and AXA Equitable has been re-running its campaign featuring the "800-pound gorilla in the room," which talks about the problem of how to meet retirement needs and how annuities can help.

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