Over the past few years, I have used this space to advocate for a national advertising program to make the public aware of its need for professional financial advice.
I was therefore delighted when representatives of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. dropped by and showed us the first TV commercial in their new national public-awareness campaign.
Kudos to the CFP Board. Their TV spots will run 850 times for the rest of the year on the Travel Channel, Home & Garden Television, ESPN, The History Channel, Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC, and mark the start of a four-year commitment by the organization to raise awareness about the CFP mark, which is held by more than 62,000 financial planners.
The CFP Board is spending $9 million annually on the campaign, which will include print and online ads, and will finance the effort through a $12 a month increase in CFP certificants' fees and by dipping into its reserve fund. Not everyone, however, agrees that the campaign is worth the expense.
Many readers found fault with an InvestmentNews editorial that supported the plan (“CFP Board is taking a step in the right direction,” Nov. 8). According to a survey we did at that time, 76% of the 231 financial advisers who responded said they didn't support the idea of raising fees to fund an awareness campaign.
Although there will always be those opposed, I have to believe that advisers will recognize the value of such a campaign over time and not worry about the fee hike. If the campaign is effective, more people will be drawn to certified financial planners, and the added revenue will more than cover the cost.
To be sure, the CFP Board and the financial services industry as a whole face an uphill battle in winning the trust and confidence of investors. After the events of recent years, many investors and would-be investors are suspicious of anyone who doles out financial advice.
As for the campaign, it is targeting 20 million mass-affluent investors between 35 and 64, a segment that most financial planners are eager to reach.
The ads use a swirl of graphics to make the point that certified financial planners help people pull their financial lives together.
As I have pointed out in past columns, other industries have created awareness programs to educate consumers.
The “Got milk?” campaign, created for the California Milk Processor Board and jointly funded by America's milk processors and dairy farmers, was one such campaign, as was the National Pork Board's marketing campaign “Pork: The Other White Meat.”
Financial well-being certainly is an issue as worthy of attention as milk and meat.
In fact, I'll go out on a limb here and suggest that more people need help figuring out their finances than they do a reminder about milk's role in building strong bones or pork chops as an alternative to a steak.
Most people either can't, won't or shouldn't do it themselves when it comes to their personal finances.
It's obvious that millions of Americans need financial help. Therefore the CFP Board's new campaign is a step in the right direction.