Fund Managers & Advertising: A Millennial's Perspective

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For fund managers working in a digital age, advertising is changing drastically.

Print advertising or word-of-mouth is simply not going to be effective in maintaining client relationships in today’s online world. Effective advertisements can attract clients, as well as develop a brand image which will build lasting client relationships. Marketing is a way for fund managers to translate the goals and values of their firm in a visual, tangible way. “Many people believe that marketing is just about advertising or sales. However, marketing is everything a company does to acquire customers and maintain a relationship with them.”
For fund managers, a huge part of marketing is generating advertisements. These ads can take a variety of forms; there are print ads, billboard ads, ads in the subway, Twitter ads, pop-up and sidebar ads, and many, many more.
As a result of this advertisement influx, third party marketing services are becoming more lucrative, as they provide a “consulting service to hedge fund managers who need the expertise of seasoned marketing professionals. [They] employ experienced investment marketing and sales experts, and raise assets for hedge funds.” Advertising is obviously essential in today’s world for any company that wishes to make their name recognizable and their business profitable; luckily, there are a number of ways for hedge funds to develop ad campaigns, hone in on a brand image, and start recruiting new clients.
However, according to an analysis by, larger funds are not using their larger marketing budgets to their advantage. “An analysis of the top 30 institutional asset managers (as defined by confirmed… larger firms were no more successful at differentiating themselves than their smaller brethren.” What does this mean for these larger firms? One goal of advertising and branding is to set a company apart from competitors. In order to do this, marketing content needs to be original and resonate with viewers. Clients can and should be able to separate the men from the boys, so to speak, through the sophistication of a company’s advertisements.
This installment in our “Millennial’s Perspective” series will be taking a look at how well fund managers (both large and small) are setting themselves apart from their competition. We will be looking at the various advertising methods fund managers are using through; “Millennial-friendly” platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube; bread-and-butter advertising like television commercials, billboards, and print; as well as alternative advertising methods.
This post will break down what I think fund managers are doing right when it comes to advertising, and what I feel they could be doing to more effectively translate a brand image through advertising campaigns. As always, I will be offering my perspective on these ads as a millennial entering the workforce and the financial world.

Advertising Budgets

Michael Pantanella is quoted in an article by Forbes on fund managers and advertising, in which he says, “Advertising is now another tool for hedge funds to get their message out. What’s very important is that the hedge funds who seek to benefit from advertising have very clear and powerful messages that are also well targeted.” Well-targeted advertisements are very important, and some companies are willing to shell out the big bucks in order to get them.
For example, “Advertising spending by Invesco Perpetual tripled last year. The UK fund house increased its advertising spend to £6.2m, making it the third-biggest advertiser in the UK funds market behind Old Mutual Global Investors (OMGI) and Fidelity Worldwide Investment, the biggest spender. OMGI also more than doubled its advertising spend, to almost £9m in 2014.”
Clearly, the marketing departments of companies like Invesco and OGMI are willing to spend big. While a lot of the larger fund management firms can afford paid advertisements, it is certainly worth mentioning the firms using social media to promote their brands, free of charge. Vanguard Investments, for example, were one of the first to start harnessing the power of social media’s advertising affordances by “hiring a head of social communications eight years ago, when other asset managers regarded this position as a subsidiary of other communications roles.”

Video Advertising

YouTube is a popular entertainment and information medium among many; especially the Millennial generation. I, for one, use YouTube to catch up on political debates and commentary programs, to find new music and music videos released by my favorite artists, to watch the latest movie trailers, to research and listen to user testimonies before making a product purchase – the list goes on and on.
“Asset managers can’t push individual products as obviously as other brands can because they are bound by regulations around product promotion. But they can build more general brand recognition using informative, topical and educational videos.” Anyone who has ever used YouTube knows how the platform features ads; there are banners which pop-up on the bottom of videos, short introductory ad videos, as well as banners at the top of the webpage.

introductory video ad
This Advicent (financial advisor) ad appeared before a video played on YouTube. As you can see, YouTube gives the option of skipping the ad after 5 seconds.

These ads appear under the search bar on YouTube. YouTube’s platform always lets you know when you’re being shown an advertisement.

This ad for Columbia Threadneedle Investment appeared on the sidebar of the YouTube search page.
This very simple rebranding message for Columbia Threadneedle Investment appeared on the sidebar of the YouTube search page.

Hedge funds and fund managers tend to utilize the YouTube advertising methods of pop-ups and banners much less frequently than they utilize the free video-producing capabilities of the platform. By editing and producing original content on YouTube, funds are able to bypass advertising fees, while still developing a brand image online. It is important to note that the following YouTube examples are not examples of YouTube’s ad platform. Instead, these examples are simply good use of video marketing.
Coronation Fund Managers
Coronation’s content videos on YouTube have a unifying theme translated through their slogan: “Trust is earned.” The videos posted by Coronation appear to have a high production budget, and are intended to evoke feelings of nostalgia in viewers, and earn legitimacy through small disclaimers which read: “Based on a true story.” One thing about YouTube is the platform allows for fund managers to “recycle” old ads, so to speak, by uploading old television commercials as content.


Perhaps my favorite Coronation advertisement is this video, in which Coronation uses Vincent Van Gogh as an example of a historical figure who was a “missed investment opportunity” (as he only sold one painting during his short lifetime). This ad, which features great special effects and a Van Gogh lookalike, functions to associate the investment management firm Coronation with something as high-culture as Van Gogh’s art. This comparison is supported by some very cool camera effects in which real-life scenes morph into Van Gogh’s most famous paintings. In this sense, the advertising is original and effective. Coronation’s production team deserves props, as all of the firms’ videos are high quality and nicely filmed.
Old Mutual
Old Mutual’s YouTube channel content is not recycled TV advertisements like Coronation’s; instead, Old Mutual uses YouTube as a way to provide to clients a history of the company’s “humble beginnings.” There is an emphasis in Old Mutual’s videos on themes of family, children, and nostalgia for the past. These themes I believe are not as effective in attracting new customers, however, will strengthen loyalty and forge a lasting relationship among existing clientele.

One thing that makes Old Mutual’s advertising stand out from competition is that all of the company’s existing advertisements are provided on the company’s website. In this way, Old Mutual is making it easy for those who want to know more about the company’s brand image – that person does not have to scour the internet for ads. Instead, their advertising accomplishments are displayed in one place.
Although most of Old Mutual’s advertisements are in video form, there are some print advertisements, although these print ads are not nearly as interesting nor resonate with viewers in the same way the videos do. For example, the following print ad continues the theme of families, children and nostalgia, however, it lacks the aesthetic and design sophistication of the video ads.
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Fidelity’s use of  instructional videos on YouTube is notable. If an individual visits Fidelity’s YouTube page, they will see an abundance of videos which offer mini-lessons in finance. These videos describe, for example, what an ETF is, or what the basics of roll-over IRAs are. Once again, while this is not technically YouTube advertising (the videos were uploaded for free and are not promoted by YouTube), it is an ingenious form of brand marketing.

The reason these “Fidelity Learning Center” videos are so great is that the company is demonstrating to their clients that they care about their financial literacy. By helping clients clearly understand concepts like fixed-income ETFs, they are demonstrating they want clients to be informed about their options and decision making in the financial sector. These videos are successful because they will attract not only Fidelity customers, but anyone who is perusing YouTube searching for clarification on financial terminology.

Social Media Advertising

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One major affordance of social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter are the interactive capabilities. A great way to “advertise” on social media is to respond to comments and interact with customers. This not only reinforces existing customer relationships, but shows visitors site or that the company is actively listening to customer critique and praise, and genuinely cares about customer feedback. Check out the example below.

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Positive feedback in Vanguard’s Facebook comments.

Another method of advertising on social media is to be “promoted” by a site such as Twitter, which essentially means a company pays Twitter to encourage users to follow or retweet the company. You can see an example below of Fidelity using this feature. It should be noted however, that this feature is probably only going to be utilized by fund managers with larger marketing budgets. While I am not particularly fond of the promoted Tweets feature as a Twitter user, I do think if a company can afford it, they should use it to their advantage. Even if it does not succeed in getting the company a lot of followers, they are still encouraging brand recognition and familiarity among users of these social media sites; namely, millennials.
It is not only brands or companies which can be promoted on Twitter – individuals can also use Twitter to build their brand image and self-advertise. Through self-promotion, an employee can gain recognition through content production and therefore promote the company they work for. As you can see, all of the following accounts have been promoted by Twitter. In my opinion, this “promotion” of individuals is slightly more effective than the “promotion” of companies; putting a human face to a Twitter account is always more comforting for consumers.
self promotion
self promo 2
self promo 3

Alternative Advertising

One of the biggest challenges in advertising for any field is producing content that is as eye-catching and memorable as it is original. The forms of advertising which have been covered in this post thus far are effective and useful, however, lack a certain freshness. Financial companies are notorious for their lack of creativity and variety when it comes to curating a public image.
There is also a certain level of distrust which exists among millennials and financial companies; I believe is much in part due to the fact that we grew up with parents who were directly effected by the Recession. There has been emotional distress surrounding financial institutions since the stock market crashed in 2008. What this means is that financial institutions face an especially big challenge when it comes to appealing to a younger demographic. Building trust as well as establishing a relatable brand image is essential if they want to foster a relationship with the millennial generation.
There are funds which are succeeding in offering original methods of advertising on platforms other than social media.
SkyBridge Capital 
Skybridge Capital’s method of advertising is, in my opinion, one of the best I’ve seen in doing research for this post. “Thanks to funding from SkyBridge, the city of West Palm Beach now has a bike-sharing service that bears the name SkyBikeWPB. Later this spring, residents will see SkyBridge’s name and branding on 150 bikes and 14 kiosks around the city.”
I personally love the idea of advertising that does something other than simply tell people to buy into a product or company. The SkyBridge Bikes are effective because biking is something that is beneficial to the health of the planet as much as the people. Bikes create community, encourage healthy ideals, and are just plain fun to ride. The founder of SkyBridge Capital expressed similar sentiments; SkyBridge did not want to take part in advertising that was exclusively “self-serving.”

“It’s not a Times Square billboard, which is very self-serving,” said Mr. Scaramucci, who wouldn’t reveal what SkyBridge spent on the program. But he said the SkyBridge name is still “emblazoned all over this place.” He’s considering public bike-sharing programs and possibly sponsoring wi-fi networks in other cities.”

sky bike
JP Morgan
JP Morgan’s print advertisements are effective purely in their aesthetic appeal. Take the following advertisement, for example. This advert, which is meant to translate an image of JP Morgan as a truly global company, features a landscape of a city which is actually a compilation of iconic landmarks from major cities across the globe. With very few words, JP Morgan is able to effectively generate a feeling of unity and global cooperation within the company.
JP Morgan print
These print advertisements, which are designed like otherworldly postcards, would be popular with millennials as they are very “shareable” on social media sites. Even if an individual was not interested in JP Morgan as a fund manager, they still could be inclined to show the beautiful, artistic images to friends and family.
jp morgan print 2
Another great example of alternative advertising by JP Morgan Chase’s Freedom Credit Cards is their use of co-branding.  Co-branding is a “marketing partnership between at least two different brands of goods or services.” Take this TV spot, for example, which features a song by Vampire Weekend.
By featuring music by a band popular among millennials, JP Morgan is doing a few things very well: 1) They are using catchy music to keep their ads fresh and exciting, 2) They are appealing to a younger audience through their inclusion of an alternative band, and 3) They are providing integrated advertising for Vampire Weekend by showing that the song used in the TV Spot can be purchased on iTunes.
Alternative advertising strategies do exist, and in my opinion, are more effective in translating a memorable brand image to consumers. If fund managers want to attract millennial clientele, they should consider these types of ads.
For more on our series of “a millennial’s perspective”, keep following our blog and use the subscribe field at the bottom of the page for email updates.

sarah mardiney

sarah mardiney