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A raft of lively, quirky TV commercials for mutual funds is hitting the airwaves as marketers seek to differentiate their brands in a sea of identical category advertising.

Janus Funds seeks to grab attention with a new network TV campaign that bowed on the Super Bowl, with a spot featuring a long closeup of a woman's eyes and a description of Janus' investment strategies centering on individual companies' performances.

More ads are in the works for the category, following a flurry of account reviews and executive changes in the booming industry.

Behind the movement to TV is the realization that new, younger investors aren't paying attention to the dull, performance-based mutual fund ads typically found in newspaper financial pages.

"We're in the embryonic stages of a big movement toward brand building and personality development in the mutual fund arena, and TV is where it's going to be played out because it's the best way to get brand messages across in such a competitive category," said Donny Deutsch, CEO of Deutsch, New York, formerly the agency for Prudential Investments, which took its mutual fund account in-house last year.


Another factor is the opportunity presented by recent negative publicity and slipping market share at No. 1 mutual fund marketer Fidelity Investments.

The giant's market share slipped from 13.6% in late 1995 to 13.36% last November, and a number of key executives and high-profile fund managers have departed.

Meanwhile, a movement toward do-it-yourself investing is spurring smaller and midsize players to capitalize on the ongoing bull market for funds, making even modest advertising investments pay off.


Agencies are cashing in, too. Several major fund accounts currently handled in-house are expected to go into review this year, possibly including Fidelity, say investment industry insiders. Several major accounts-ranging from $10 million to $30 million-changed hands last year.

Deutsch is currently a finalist in a review for No. 12 mutual fund marketer AIM Management Group, along with TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif., and Weiss, Whitten, Stagliano, both New York. Rives Carlberg, Houston, previously handled the account; spending hasn't been disclosed.

"We're doing what package-goods companies do, creating a brand consumers can relate to, understand and identify-brand-new in the mutual fund industry," said Stuart Novak, Janus' VP-retail marketing. "So far it's been a bunch of confusing messages, and consumers don't know who anyone is."

Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, is agency for Janus' estimated $10 million account.

American Century Investments, previously Twentieth Century Mutual Funds, on Jan. 1, unveiled a campaign to introduce its new name. Quirky images include a herd of investors galloping across a dusty prairie, a shipwrecked executive on a raft and a seedy motel called "The Blue Marlin."

The campaign, estimated at $20 million, is the first work from new agency Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, Calif.

"We have to use TV to make a powerful statement, as competition heats up and the number of people controlling investment assets shrinks," said Michael Barr, VP-marketing, American Century.

Dreyfus Corp. is in the early stages of a $30 million to $40 million TV campaign via new agency Citron Haligman Bedecarre, San Francisco. The latest spot features its trademark lion leaping around amid teasing questions and comments about investing.

Dreyfus spots aired on pre-Super Bowl programming.

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