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Retirement Planning > Retirement Investing

Ameriprise Sells Retirement With 'Easy Rider' Star

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In another push to capture sales from baby boomers, Ameriprise Financial is relying on a “1960s-style” red chair and actor Dennis Hopper. They are the main ingredients in the latest Ameriprise ad campaign entitled “Dreams Don’t Retire.”

The campaign, which follows the introduction of the company’s “Dream Book” guide and affiliated ad program of 2005, kicked off on September 10 — the first night of the 2006-2007 “NBC Sunday Night Football” season. It was developed in cooperation with Saatchi & Saatchi and also airs during TV shows like “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “CSI: Miami,” as well as in print, on radio spots and via online ads.

According to Ameriprise, the red chair is meant to symbolize the “launching pad for boomers’ retirement dreams” and serves “as an ‘anti-rocking’ chair.” “The theme is meant to say that people today don’t take retirement lying down and are looking at inspirational ways to retire,” explains Kim Sharan, executive vice president and chief marketing and communications officer.

With the Dream Book, Ameriprise aimed to connect its new post-American Express brand with consumers and present them with its “redefinition of financial planning.” The ’06 campaign strives to illustrate how Ameriprise continues to redefine financial planning over a lifetime relationship with its clients, according to Sharan.

“Hopper embodies the spirit of the baby boomer,” Sharan says. “Consumer research shows that his message resonates highly with a target audience. He’s also seen as a ’60s icon.”

The star, who began acting in films in the 1950s with James Dean, directed and starred in the film “Easy Rider” with Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson in 1969. Since then, he has appeared in “Apocalypse Now” (1979), “Blue Velvet” (1986), “Speed” (1994), “Waterworld” (1995) and a number of other movies.

“He’s not a boomer himself,” since he was born in 1936, adds Sharan. “But he is looked up to for his attitude of spontaneity and his attitude really is ‘make your dreams come true.’ “

While the Dream Book campaign has produced solid results in terms of prospects for Ameriprise advisors, it will take at least a few weeks to judge the full impact of the company’s latest ads. And, as with its re-branding efforts of 2005, Ameriprise knows it is taking a bit of risk with its approach. “Our new campaign is a radical departure from standard financial services advertising,” explains Sharan.

Chip Roame of the consultancy Tiburon Strategic Advisors, says “It’s a great time [for Ameriprise] to be brand building.” Merrill Lynch, H&R Block and Charles Schwab are also spending a lot on ads these days, he points out.

In Roame’s view, Ameriprise is targeting the middle market, rather than the ultra-affluent. “And this group is more receptive to ideas suggested via advertising and marketing messages.”

Some boomers, he points out, may be asking: “What do I do with my money? And they may be asking this question for the very first time. So when they see the ad, they might decide to go see an Ameriprise advisor.”

Ameriprise executives are well aware of how tough the playing field is and how difficult it is to stand out in a crowd. All brokerage firms “want to win the hearts and minds of boomers,” Sharan says. “How do you set yourself apart? The competition is fierce. We try to differentiate ourselves with our approach.”


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