The ads were necessary, said a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase in Chicago, Thomas A. Kelly, to help stanch the flood of deposits from WaMu — and they worked.
“There was radio, print, Internet, fliers in banks, all part of saying, ‘You’re O.K.,’ ” Mr. Kelly said last week, adding: “And we really think we got that message across. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we had positive deposit inflows into WaMu.”
The WaMu agency — TBWA/Chiat/Day in Playa del Rey, Calif., part of the TBWA Worldwide division of the Omnicom Group — and the JPMorgan Chase agency — McGarryBowen in New York — are collaborating on the campaign. Appropriately, the tagline is: “WaMu, now part of Chase.”
Commercial banks are only one place where consumers have been voting with their dollars, moving their money to what they perceive as safer investments. Among the beneficiaries have been money market funds that invest in government securities.
“The government funds have been growing by leaps and bounds,” said Connie Bugbee, managing editor at iMoneyNet in Westborough, Mass., a research firm. That has come at the expense of what are called prime money funds, she added, which invest in areas outside of government.
Similarly, Hewitt Associates in Lincolnshire, Ill., which tracks the movement of money in 401(k) accounts, reported that on Sept. 29, the day the Dow Jones average plunged 777.68 points, so-called stable value funds — another historically safer option — received the largest inflows of transfers; international funds suffered the largest outflows.
In advertising, many financial institutions are racing to reassure consumers with soothing messages — that focus on important “S” words: strength, safety, stability, security.
“There is a safe and smart place to put your money,” ads for Commerce Bank tell newspaper readers.
Simultaneously, some institutions are continuing to communicate as if the recent upheavals had not happened. Ads for Discover Financial Services, for instance, try to coax consumers to sign up for yet another credit card, offering enticements like free balance transfers.
Just as bad as no new message, said Mr. Stibel of the New England Consulting Group, is the wrong message, as when “the C.E.O. writes a letter that ‘everything’s O.K., not to worry, we’re in great shape.’ ”
“That’s an indication everything isn’t O.K.,” he added.
Mr. Stibel praised ads for Charles Schwab, the discount brokerage firm. They have included open letters from Charles R. Schwab, the chairman, outlining in plain language his perspective on market conditions.
“The current environment for investors is in many ways unprecedented and clearly unsettling,” the text of the letter begins on the Web site schwab.com.
“Is it a tough environment? Yes,” the letter continues. “Is it a time to be rash? No.”
The straight talk is the right approach, said Andrew Benett, chief executive of Euro RSCG Worldwide in New York, a unit of Havas that is the Schwab creative agency, because “everyone knows how dire the situation is.” “What brands need to do to be successful is to be honest, to have a lot of humility,” he added. “The consumer has very little tolerance of anything else.”
The campaign featuring Mr. Schwab is running in addition to Schwab’s regular ads.
“As we’ve seen anxiety on the part of investors increase,” said Rebecca Saeger, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at the Charles Schwab Corporation in San Francisco, “we’ve reached out to our own clients, reminding them we’re here for guidance and are taking a leadership voice to help individual investors.”
“It’s hard to be reassuring when nobody knows how it will all pan out,” she added, “but the feedback has been very positive.”