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Morgan Stanley's Latest Ads Push 'FA Buddy' Out, Stress Global Theme

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The new pitch at Morgan Stanley is “world wise.”

The ’07 ad campaign, launched February 21, is a sharp contrast to a previous pitch that highlighted close advisor-client relations; the bonds were so close, in fact, that they were turned into a “Saturday Night Live” comedy skit that can still be viewed on YouTube.

“This follows the trend in the industry to be abstract,” says Chip Roame, head of Tiburon Strategic Advisors. “The idea is to let the recipients decide what the ad means without the action being shoved in their face,” he notes. “Wachovia led this abstract-type ad effort for a couple years recently.”

In 2003, Wachovia wealth management ads asked viewers questions like, “What can the moon teach us about being well off?” The theme of the campaign was “uncommon wisdom.”

Morgan Stanley’s latest campaign features glimpses of global buildings and not a single advisor or client. The company hopes existing and potential clients will get the gist of the central message: interconnectedness. A print ad featuring a large empty tunnel-like structure in China concludes, “… success is not only a matter of what you’ve invested in, but more importantly whom you’ve invested with.”

“So, when viewers see the building boom in China, Morgan Stanley hopes they’ll ask ‘Is it time to invest in China?’” Roame explains.

Those individuals paying close attention to the small print in Morgan Stanley’s ads can find the mention of a companion website ( The site features several Morgan Stanley experts commenting on global investment topics.

The advertising approach used more recently by Charles Schwab, of course, takes the opposite tact: “Talk to Chuck!” consumers are told. “This is a direct call to action,” notes Roame. “It works by stirring up activity and leveraging the brand.”

He points out that it’s been the full-service broker-dealers using the abstract approach and other players taking the “put their nose in it” approach. “These are the two strategies we’re seeing,” Roame explains.

Smith Barney’s latest ad campaign, launched in October 2006, has “working wealth” as its theme. “This is more about someone’s identity and not about directing you to a certain activity,” says Roame.

According to Smith Barney, the campaign aims to describe a group of affluent individuals who do not always consider themselves to be “traditionally wealthy,” says spokesperson Alex Samuelson. “We think we have named a demographic segment” that is 45-62 years old, involved in many activities, has complex family/money needs, and includes entrepreneurs and working executives.

Morgan Stanley’s new ads, produced by Ogilvy New York, are running on CNBC, NBC, Fox News and MSNBC, as well as in several large daily newspapers, weekly and monthly magazines, and online.

CEO John Mack explains in a recent memo that the campaign is meant to reinforce “Morgan Stanley’s unmatched ability to provide that expertise and insight to our individual clients in today’s rapidly changing investment landscape. The primary objective of the advertising is to support our financial advisors and the reenergized wealth management business …”

James Gorman, head of the company’s wealth management division, seems pleased with the new ad campaign, which he sees as just one part of a broader improvement plan. “It’s important to do, to have a new voice out there,” he told Research several weeks before the campaign began. “It’s important to advertise when people are willing to listen to you. And now we have an audience that looks at us and says, ‘You know what? This company is doing pretty well.’ “

Janet Levaux is the managing editor of Research; reach her at [email protected].


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