An estimated $5 million a week in MMM commercials is once again dominating the airwaves, said Andrei Kashevarov, head of the securities department for Russia's Anti-Monopoly Committee, which was recently charged with regulating securities advertising.
Despite moves to limit such advertising, MMM and dozens of imitators continue to draw buyers with soap-opera type TV spots.
Viewers have been following the tale of fictitious construction worker Lyonya Golubkov as he climbed the MMM shareholders ladder to become a millionaire. For the average Russian who struggles to put enough food on the table, this TV personality became a national hero as he used his newfound wealth to buy his wife a fur coat and take a trip to California to watch the World Cup.
MMM share prices collapsed after the government warned that the fund was using money from new investors to pay off earlier participants. New advertising shows Mr. Golubkov has lost his savings, as did 10 million real-life Russians.
In the new series, Mr. Golubkov tells a Mexican soap opera star that he's investing again in MMM shares and starting to rebuild his wealth. The star of "Simply Maria," the latest in a series of foreign soaps shown on Russian TV, was reportedly brought to Moscow just to do the MMM advertising.
The ads, created in-house, now appear to comply with President Boris Yeltsin's June decree forbidding financial institutions from promising specific dividends.
After decades of Communist rule, Russia has few regulations covering advertising. The Duma, Russia's Parliament, is due to discuss a proposed law this fall that would prevent institutions from promising certain dividends on securities.
It would also prevent companies that haven't registered their securities, like MMM, from advertising.
That could be a blow to the ad community since most advertising on TV and in print is for banks and investment funds.