Paul Holmes 10 Jul 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
A twice-weekly series of VNRs was developed for Merrill Lynch as a positioning tool for their financial services. By tackling “everyday” and practical financial questions in these VNRs, Merrill Lynch was able to position themselves as experts. This campaign succeeds in putting a behemoth financial services company at the kitchen table of everyone in America. It takes the financial questions and problems people face everyday, and attempts to resolve them for an individual in a very subtle and non-abrasive way.
The greatest challenge Medialink-CTV faced as communicators and Merrill Lynch faces as a financial services company, is there is no tangible product to sell. There is no widget, or particular item to point to and say, “Buy this.” Our challenge is to sell integrity, and financial advice without sounding too commercial or baited. This challenged our team to think creatively and “out-of-the-box” for VNR topics and storylines.
RESEARCH, PLANNING, AND OBJECTIVES:
A survey of television news directors with mixed responses was generated with the overall reaction positive, and a strong caveat of, “Let me see it first.” Most producers were worried that it would be too commercial to use.
The Medialink team brainstormed ideas for story lines and took many of them from personal lives:
- “Should I take advantage of these credit card offers I get in the mail?”
- “What is a women’s next financial step after becoming a widow?”
- “Should I pay points on my mortgage?”
- “Is it wise to keep money in a Savings account?”
It was through this planning stage that our goals became evident:
- Create stories that answer common questions to financial situations
- Position Merrill Lynch Financial Advisors as approachable experts, with a wealth of information on everyday money matter problems.
- Showcase financial programs or services that can help viewers answer these questions in their own lives.
Merrill Lynch's mantra (to us and all who promote or work with Merrill Lynch) is “When it comes to money, Merrill Lynch.” This is the foundation on which we built this series.
There are many business networks and programs talking about stock performance. We knew that just another story about what stocks to buy, would not separate Merrill Lynch’s “Money Sense” stories from the pack. We needed to address everyday peoples' money problems, and questions. We reached out to people who were managing their own money; those who did not think a brokerage firm could help them with everyday money issues such as mortgage or credit card questions.
Merrill Lynch Financial Advisors were there to answer not only stock questions, but also the questions about buying or leasing a car, handling taxes, and many more.
By raising consumer issues in the stories, we would create a product that attracts local news outlets to rebroadcast. Stories were very easy to localize, since most viewers deal with these topics. A distribution arrangement with CBS, FOX News, and ABC was created to distribute our material to their affiliates on the network’s own closed circuit affiliate feeds.
We targeted the consumer, business, and financial reporters at these stations and promoted the stories that were feeding and in production. We also took their input about stories that would be of interest to their viewers, and produced them. The individual VNRs were part of a larger series, a series that could be used on a regular basis for content and footage. This consistency was appealing to reporters and producers who were usually strapped for time and money with little or no resources for financial footage.
RESULTS AND EVALUATION:
The Merrill Lynch Money Sense features are now transmitted each Monday and Wednesday to all CBS, FOX, and ABC news stations. Stories are also available to print, Internet, and radio journalists via Medialink’s Newstream (www.newstream.com) journalist service.
Individual projects consistently deliver an audience of between 4 and 8 million per story. They are featured regularly on nationally syndicated business shows like “First Business” and “Money Talks.” They are presented on daily morning shows such as “Good Day New York” and “Good Day San Diego.” Merrill Lynch VNRs are seen in all day-parted prime-time newscasts.
The packages are often followed by phone calls and email from interested viewers, which have according to Merrill Lynch, have led to a direct increase in business and product awareness.