American Century pitch sells values

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American Century Investments will kick off its first advertising of this century next week, with a branding campaign that pushes its all-American values.

The campaign, from Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, Calif., breaks on network TV March 15 while print first appears in April magazines.

The new effort marks both an increase in media and a wider target audience for the mutual fund company, said Michael Barr, senior VP-brand management.

American Century ads have typically targeted consumers, but as it expands its distribution via pension plans and brokerages' mutual fund supermarkets," it needs to speak to those institutions as well, he explained.

One of the key goals of the ads is to create name awareness and connect with viewers across both target groups, said David Smith, creative director. Rather than stress fund returns and performance as American Century had done in the past these ads try to connect with the viewers' values, he explained.

The spots feature iconic scenes such as an house under construction and a student in cap and gown running across campus as titles with phrases such as American determination" and American dream" fade in and out.

It's all about performance plus How do you perform? Who are you?' " Mr. Barr said.


American Century has also expanded its media schedule to increase its presence in network programs and add lifestyle publications to its lineup of financial magazines and newspapers, Mr. Barr said. TV spots will air on cable and network shows including prime-time programs, the NCAA basketball playoffs and the American Century celebrity golf tournament on NBC.

Mr. Barr would not disclose spending for the campaign, but said it is a significant increase over the company's previous efforts. American Century spent $27 million in media in the first 11 months of 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting.


The company was founded in 1958 as Twentieth Century Investments, and specialized in stock mutual funds until a 1995 merger with Benham Funds, a manager of bond mutual funds. It changed its name to American Century in 1997. Today, it has $110 billion in assets across 70 mutual funds, which it sells directly to consumers and institutional investors.

The new campaign follows a humorous effort that broke in 1998 to introduce the company's new name. That effort was successful in creating more awareness for the name, but now it has to evolve into a message that drives home what the company stands for and how it relates to customers, said Mr. Smith.

I think people see themselves in this work," he said.

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