30 Seconds of Airtime

April 01, 2001

They're smart, sleek and wry; and they sell the benefits of Barclays' ETFs to retail investors in 30 seconds of airtime.

Since the launch of the ad campaign, which corresponds with the launch of Barclays iShares in June 2000, Barclays' mass media message has undergone a subtle shift. Last year's three television spots were aired on national cable financial and business sites, such as CNN, CNBC and CNNfN. This year, the commercials-increased in number by two-appeared during NCAA college basketball games. Barclays has its eye on the retail market in a big way.

'The advertising associated with the iShares is different from anything we've ever done before-in both scale and target audience,' says Paul Nobile, advertising director for iShares. 'It's sort of a push-pull strategy; we want to create awareness and demand at the retail level, as well as a recognition of the product category. Simultaneously, we want the broker-dealer community to understand the advantages of ETFs, and to integrate them into retail portfolios.'

Although the original plan worked well, Barclays began to realize that it could regionalize its advertising program, says Nobile. 'We could hit markets that tended to have a higher level of brand awareness, and increase loyalty to the brand at the retail and intermediary level. Once we determined which markets would be both cost and brand efficient for us, we worked with our ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, San Francisco, on a regional buy. It's a high visibility strategy for a firm like BGI, which has traditionally been institutional.'

Now Barclays is targeting investors who are moderately active traders, both self-directed and broker reliant, and who are knowledgeable about their portfolio. The firm made a conscious decision not to go into prime time, thereby avoiding the sit coms and dramas, and opted instead for shows that build relationships through news, the precommutes and late nights, as well as sports.

The five spots form a complementary package: Each tells a tale of investment woes or inspirations neatly shored up by the kind of diversification available in ETFs. They focus on a protagonist's predicament, and they do so with tongue-in-cheek humor.

'The commercials always start with a common need that we believe our investors have and ties into a benefit, and ultimately a solution, that is clearly derived from iShares,' says Nobile. 'While they aren't direct marketing spots, we do have a call to action at their conclusion. What we're trying to do is to give people a little bit of a story and drive them to the Web site or drive them to our phone center and request more information.'