Merrill Lynch has scrapped its regular advertising on tonight's World Series game and replaced it with television ads that attempt to calm investor jitters.
Meanwhile, at least some financial institutions are moving to capitalize on worries about the stock market. "A Safe Haven . . . for Stock Market Investors," declares an advertisement in today's Times for interest-paying checking accounts at American Savings and Loan Association.
An ad for Fidelity Federal Savings and Loan appears on the same page as stock tables. "The Only Sure Thing On This Page," it says, promoting a certificate of deposit.
Prudential-Bache Securities breaks a new broadcast and print campaign today under the banner "Rock Solid." But unlike Merrill Lynch, the ad campaign does not specifically mention the stock market crash.
"We just didn't think that was necessary," said Peter Castiglio, Prudential-Bache senior vice president. The full-page newspaper ads feature a bold headline, "Rock Solid," and go on to say that "Now, especially now, you need an investment firm that is Rock Solid."
The Merrill Lynch ads will feature the company's chairman talking directly to the camera about the stock market crash. It marks the first time the company has used one of its executives in an ad or created television ads with just two days' notice.
The ads--which also feature senior researchers and marketing experts--were filmed on Wednesday. "I'm here for some straight talk about the stock market," Chairman William A. Schreyer says in his first-ever TV commercial. "Emotions can run high during market turbulence . . . at Merrill Lynch, we're still bullish on America."
The ad, created by the New York agency Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt, continues, "A sage once said that there is an opportunity in every calamity . . . investors willing to assume some risk might now see an opportunity to accumulate good stocks at attractive prices."
Merrill Lynch's regular ads--which have been put on hold--feature a bull running along a sandy beach or along Wall Street to the slogan "No known boundaries."
"We didn't feel it was appropriate to run these ads," said Peter T. Leach, vice president at Merrill Lynch. He said the new ads may continue to run after the World Series, depending on market conditions. "This is the quickest response to the (stock market) crisis we could devise," he said.
Some marketing experts think that the new advertisements should be heavier on specifics. "The investing public is looking for guidance, not for symbolism," said Robert Spekman, associate professor of marketing at University of Southern California.
"Don't talk to me about being bullish on America," Spekman said, "talk to me about how you have a pulse on the economy."