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THE BUCK STOPS WHERE? DOLLAR'S GYRATIONS PUT DAMPER ON FUND ADVERTISING

By Published on .

U.S. marketers, increasingly global in scope, raised their antennae last week as they tried to read the effects of the continuing gyrations in the currency markets-and then react.

The fleet-footed responded through their advertising.

"Transactional advertising [financial institutions' tombstone ads] has dropped," said Tony Blin-Stoyle, worldwide advertising director of the Financial Times in London. "Until those [currency] markets are stabilized, I don't see it coming back."

He said financial advertisers are moving instead to "corporate advertising rather than specific instruments."

In New York, Geoffrey E. Meyer, ad sales director at Barron's, sees ad dollars shifting from global mutual funds to "less sophisticated products such as IRAs and money market instruments with less high yield and high growth." That shift impacts Barron's, he added. "Less sophisticated products don't do well with us. These ad dollars are going to more mass market publications such as Money and Kip-linger's." Similarly, at SmartMoney, "We've been closing strong issues this year, but lately small fund companies specializing in international funds seem to be holding back a little," said Publisher David Carey. "GT Global decided to wait a couple of months before advertising again. The bigger fund companies are shifting messages to things that are not as sensitive to the shift in the dollar. It's all happened so fast-it's just a week or so old."

Some of the ad moves hit publications hard. Randy Jones, founder and CEO of Worth, said: "With the peso devaluation, we did not get a 24-page insert that was being talked about from the Mexican government."

"The bigger issue," he added, "is just that investor uncertainty has caused some of our endemic advertisers to re-evaluate their plans. Nuveen, which has been a great supporter of Worth, has run no business to date [in this calendar year]. They are trying to evaluate what campaign makes sense for the current environment. And J.P. Morgan has cut back for the second quarter."

Financial advertisers aren't the only ones dancing fast to the changing currency music. As foreign-based automakers raise their prices-due to the dollar's fall-Detroit marketers will likely step up price comparisons in advertising.

A current print campaign for the Mercury Mystique compact sedan, for instance, relies on price and equipment comparisons against its chief rivals, the Nissan Altima and Honda Accord. Young & Rubicam, Detroit, created the ads for Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln-Mercury Division.

Some observers suggest the timing is right for U.S. marketers to boost advertising.

"The weakness of the dollar can be a competitive advantage to multinational companies that sell hard goods," said Carl Anderson, president of Doremus & Co., a New York agency specializing in financial services advertising. "As the dollar goes down, exports may go up and that might cause these companies to put more against advertising. It's the inverse with financial services."

Howard Trauger, president of Schuylkill Capital Investment Corp. in Philadelphia, noted that advertisers who sell exported goods "should pump up their advertising. There will be an export explosion for U.S. goods. U.S. dominance of industrial markets will increase. The Caterpillars of the world will be big winners. And foreign travelers to the U.S. will be on the rise."

Already, Japanese collegians gearing up for after-graduation vacations are eyeing a U.S. fling. "For the same money it costs me to go for a weekend to a hot spring in the mountains, I can go to the U.S. for a week," said Showa Woman's University graduate Megumi Fukahori.

Indeed, Northwest Airlines Japan Marketing Manager Tadashi Matsumura sees a big summer exodus to the U.S. for Japanese travelers.

Elsewhere, Deutsche Lufthansa now seems prescient. In February, it started a U.S. promotional campaign, handled by Y&R in Frankfurt. Already, newspapers in that city report a surge of Germans buying U.S. traveler's checks and dollars.

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