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In Search of Good Ads, Companies are Turning to Employees

Workforce management executives are now getting the chance to input on the company's marketing efforts. The ad campaigns themselves are designed not only to sell products and services but also to attract quality candidates to the company.

October 30, 2000
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The use of celebrities hawking products is a bit over done. As much as we canadmire what Michael Jordan has achieved in basketball, it is tiresome to see himand his buddy Bugs Bunny shilling for MCI WorldCom.

The same can be said for comedian Paul Reiser, who constantly reminds us thatwith AT&T we can make long distance calls for pennies "All day, everyday" …ad nauseam.

As great as Tiger Woods already is, wouldn't we really rather see him playgolf than sell wares?

Real people using real words

Far more credible and interesting are those advertisements that featureactual employees of the company (other than the Founder or CEO) conveying themessage. The financial services industry seems to have started the trend andappears to be the biggest practitioner -- but they are by no means the only onesdoing it.

AXA Advisors is currently spending $30 million behind an advertising campaign using their own employees.

From small, privately held Internet startups to Fortune 500 giants, more andmore companies are using their own employees to get the company's message acrossto its target audiences. Workforce management executives are now getting thechance to input on the company's marketing efforts. The ad campaigns themselvesare designed not only to sell products and services but also to attract qualitycandidates to the company.

Hook Media, Inc. of Boston, Massachusetts is a new interactive media company that decided to use three of its own employees(Jill Ashton, Greg Papeleoni, Bob Gersten) in its inaugural print and outdoor adcampaign.

"This was our first branding campaign to tell the world who we are andwhat we stand for," says Veronica Leger, VP, director of marketing at HookMedia. "I felt that there was something false about hiring models. It mademore sense to show who we really are by using our own employees. I think ourpersonality comes through, and it makes it more fun for our employees to beinvolved."

Financial services companies are major practitioners

Capitalizing on the fact that many people feel inadequate when it comes tomanaging their own finances and investments, financial services companies workhard to gain our trust. For years they have put financial gurus like FidelityInvestments' Peter Lynch before us to tell us how and of course where to investour hard earned dollars. Of late, many of the financial service giants haveresorted to using their own employees in their advertising in an attempt to gain credibility.

AXA Advisors, the financial planning division of financial giant AXAFinancial, Inc. (they also own Equitable Life, Sanford C. Bernstein and AllianceCapital Management), is currently spending $30 million behind an advertisingcampaign using their own employees.

AXA Advisors hopes the attractive likeness of its Katie Leipprandt will bringin new clients. The print campaign has been running extensively in majorbusiness publications. One look at Katie's clear-eyed, intelligent face, thediamonds in her ears and on her finger and the Rolex on her wrist, and you knowyour money will be in good hands. Who wouldn't want to work for a company whoseemployees dress like that?

Other employees in the AXA Advisors campaign include Ann Calvert -- who, inboth the print and broadcast versions, speaks to widows and divorcees who findthemselves "suddenly single, suddenly in charge of their money and suddenlyin need of…help!" Ms. Calvert, attractive and middle-aged, conveys themessage that she not only understands but also is in a position to really helpthese women.

Citigroup, another financial conglomerate, is attempting to prop up the salesof its Smith Barney Mutual Funds division by showcasing its most successfulportfolio managers in full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal and otherbusiness publications.

With hands folded under their chins, Alan Blake (Large Cap Growth Fund) andLarry Weissman (Mid Cap Core Fund) stare out at the reader in business-likeposes. To the right of each man's head is a table that identifies the fund thateach man manages along with its stellar performance ratings. Pretty impressivestuff. How could you not want to be part of this success? The reader can't helpbut wonder how many millions these guys earn each year and what it would be liketo work for Smith Barney Mutual Funds.

UPS talks the talk and walks the walk

These campaigns are effective examples of companies putting their best footforward in the personae of some of their outstanding and successful employees.Outside of finance, UPS has the same idea.

People have always been the key to UPS success (which includes 147,000chocolate-colored trucks, 500 airplanes and 2400 facilities reaching 200countries) and the company's industrious corporate culture and policy ofpromoting from within is legendary. In October 1995, UPS launched a printadvertising campaign that featured its own employees and it has been runningever since.

The ads showcase employees like John Jones, who joined the company as adriver in 1969 and today is the UPS Pacific Region Manger. The ad copy tells howhis territory "once covered Main Street, Sycamore and 4th. Now it'sCalifornia, Arizona and Utah as well as New Mexico, Idaho and Nevada. Today,he's responsible for nearly 27,000 employees, millions of customers and over$2.8 billion in business."

Other ads in the series feature other UPS employees including Mel Smith,district manager, and Celine Galvez, business manger. The clearly communicatedmessage is that there is real opportunity for everyone at UPS. The company isjust as proud of its position on the Fortune magazine list of the 50 bestcompanies in America for minorities as it is of its position among the top 50companies on the Fortune 500 list.

"When people think of UPS, they think of our friendly, hardworkingdrivers," says company spokesperson Paula Fulford. "The currentadvertising reveals an unseen side of UPS and introduces some of the otherpeople who make this company go."

Ms. Fulford points out that Senior Vice President of Human Resources LeaSoupata and her staff at UPS are very much involved in selecting the employeeswho appear in the ads. She also says "The ads showcase the diversity of ouremployee population, the wide open opportunities for advancement within thecompany and our commitment to community service."

Paula says that using employees in the ad campaigns keep the loyalty-ratinghigh at UPS, and while the business results are difficult to measure, she says it has madeUPS recruitment efforts much stronger. In other words, UPS’s ads serve torecruit both customers and employees.

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