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Bull Market Ad Campaigns Catch Creators Off Guard

October 20, 1987|BRUCE HOROVITZ | Times Staff Writer

Wall Street investment firms spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year to create bold corporate advertising images--like bulls and lions. With the current stock market slide, however, advertising executives are wondering if the market has at least temporarily become a wild animal that no measure of advertising can help tame.

"If you advertise now, there's a risk of looking terribly foolish," said Robert E. Connor, manager of corporate advertising at Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co. "Whatever you say on Tuesday may mean absolutely nothing on Wednesday."

Of 10 large New York brokerage houses contacted Monday, only two--Prudential-Bache Securities and Shearson Lehman Bros.--mentioned even tentative plans to soon address the stock market collapse in their advertising. Spokesmen from both companies confirmed that they are considering print ads that would look at the issue. Details, however, remain sketchy.

Senior executives from Shearson are scheduled to discuss ad strategy on Wednesday.

The executives meet each week to create a quarter-page ad that appears weekly in the newspaper USA Today. "They'll have plenty to discuss this week," said Michael O'Neill, senior vice president of corporate affairs.

And Monday, senior executives from Prudential-Bache began to outline a new print campaign. "It's too soon to tell," said a Prudential-Bache executive, "but the chances are the stock market collapse could significantly impact advertising across the board."

Some investment firms that do not deal in retail stocks, such as Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc., said they had no plans to change their advertising. "But if I were with a firm like Merrill Lynch," said Elizabeth Tower, advertising manager at Drexel, "I'd probably go out and start running a new campaign this week."

Replied a spokesman for Merrill Lynch: "All I can say is, it's under consideration."

Beyond just consideration, however, some experts say that the Wall Street firms should all run advertisements with advice to investors--and soon. "They can't just ignore it--it's in all the headlines," said David Montgomery, professor of marketing at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. "Of course, none of them want to say anything that could come back to haunt them."

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