T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., the large Baltimore-based investment company, today unrolls its most ambitious TV ad campaign yet, with spots on several cable channels.
Like other mutual-fund companies, Price spends most of its ad dollars on print publications -- newspapers and magazines, especially personal-finance periodicals.
But even as mutual-fund investors help push the stock market to new highs, research shows that people are relatively unfamiliar with even the biggest fund companies, said Meredith Callanan, Price vice president and marketing manager.
"Because the field has become so cluttered, it's becoming really difficult for any one mutual fund company to create a clear image for itself," Ms. Callanan said.
The national TV ads, which will run over the next few weeks on CNN, CNBC and other channels, are "image" pieces that are supposed to boost consumer awareness of Price without pitching particular funds.
Price declined to disclose its budget for the ads.
Few mutual fund companies spend much on TV -- even the ones, like Price, that sell directly to consumers rather than through stockbrokers. Other players in the financial services trade -- brokers, banks and insurance companies -- tend to budget much more.
"When you think about it, there is a great deal of financial advertising on television," said Perrin Long, a financial industry analyst based in Connecticut. "You haven't seen too much advertising on TV from T. Rowe Price. If they are going on a national TV binge, that would suggest they want to increase their market share."
A few years ago, Price ran test spots in selected cable markets, "but it didn't feel quite like the right method for us, and then the market started to get pretty volatile and we backed off," Ms. Callanan said.
Now, she added, the cable foray is more than an experiment, but "it's definitely not going to be a major component of our media mix at this point."
Each of the three ads, handled by Bates USA in New York, shows someone remembering a successful Price investment: a woman doctor whose father saved for her; a retired couple at a vacation home; a young father talking about investing for his son.
Each contains Price's "Invest with Confidence" slogan.
The company will gauge viewer response to the ads after a few weeks before deciding whether to buy more time, Ms. Callanan said.
Managing about $75 billion in assets, Price is one of the bigger mutual fund companies.