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Merrill’s New Ad Push: Talk to an Advisor. Now.

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What You Need to Know

  • Merrill Lynch kicked off a new ad campaign this week in response to market volatility.
  • The campaign started with print but will expand to broadcast and digital channels, the company said.
  • Advisors provided input on what the ads should focus on.

With input from its advisors, Merrill Lynch kicked off a new ad campaign this week in response to recent market volatility, with the main message being that investors should quickly speak to an advisor about their concerns, according to Christian Kitchell, chief experience officer for the wirehouse’s wealth management business.

Merrill’s prior ad campaign, called “Can’t Stop,” is still running and focuses on clients interacting digitally.

In addition to being created quickly with advisor input, the new campaign stands out in that it’s designed to drive investors to an advisor planning conversation, according to the company.

Through a code, investors seeing the ad online can visit a website where they can connect with an advisor for a Personal Wealth Analysis, Merrill’s planning tool, the company noted.

The company started the new campaign with a print ad in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, and another print ad will follow it in that publication. Both say in large letters: “The best time to talk to a Merrill Advisor? Yesterday.”

Underneath that, in smaller letters, the ads say: “These markets — they’re a wild ride. But we’ve seen it before — every up and down, twist and turn for over 100 years. We know you can do more than just hang on. With a Merrill Advisor, you can charge forward. Backed by world-class insights. Cutting-edge technology. And a personalized plan to help you thrive, no matter what lies ahead.”

It ends by stating: “Don’t just ride it out. Ride with the bull. Ride with Merrill.” Aside from slightly different colors and versions of the bull image, the ads are otherwise the same.

Although the campaign started with print, it will soon expand to broadcast and digital channels, including social media, as part of a multi-channel campaign, Kitchell said.

Rapid Response

Since the Merrill division’s recent executive shuffle, “we’ve been meeting with folks in the field quite a bit, speaking with our partners, getting to know them, and I think the way that we look at this is it’s very much a collaboration,” he told ThinkAdvisor on Tuesday in a phone interview.

Kitchell previously focused on the digital side of the business and was focused largely on the firm’s Private Bank business, artificial intelligence solutions and the Erica virtual assistant, he noted.

“What we’re doing now is we’re actually bringing together data, digital and marketing into a single [organization], which gives us a much better opportunity to bring those pieces together in an organic way,” he explained.

The change “just gives us a much better ability to tie together the client experience, the message, [make] the content … more timely, more relevant, so that we’re really getting in front of clients when they need us, with the right message at the right time, based on their needs and the situation as it’s evolving,” he said.

The new ad campaign is “probably a really good manifestation of that, based again on how quickly we were able to move, understanding the dynamics in the market right now and the fact that this is the time to get in front of clients, when they need us most, to make sure that they’re positioned for success — not just immediately but for the long term” also.

Working With Advisors

“We want to have a partnership with our folks in the field as our front line understand what they’re hearing [and] feeling through clients and making sure that we reflect that in what we are looking at, basically [from] a digital client experience perspective, but also as it relates to markets,” Kitchell said.

Although advisors’ clients, like many Americans, may be concerned about inflation and a potential recession, their top concern for now seems to be market volatility, according to Kitchell.

After meeting with clients for about a month, “based on conversations and what’s happening in the market, we felt that there was a really strong need to have a message out [to] clients and prospects candidly and talk about the value” Merrill advisors could provide them with amid the volatility, he said.

“Emotion, while completely understandable, rarely wins the day,” he said, so “I think that that’s where we really heard that there was a clear opportunity.”

While “we can protect” clients in bear markets, Merrill advisors also have the ability to “look through the near-term challenge to find the long-term opportunity” and the firm wanted to communicate that to clients and prospective clients, he explained.

The company declined to say how much it is spending on the new campaign.