25 OCTOBER 1975, Page 30

A fool and his money

Investment advertising

Bernard Hollowood

It is expected that -a new code of investment advertising similar to the one prepared for cigarettes by the Advertising Standards Authority will soon be under consideration. I have no idea what form it will take, but the following are points I should raise if, as seems unlikely, my opinions are canvassed.

1. Investment ads should not exaggerate the pleasure of investing or try to persuade unsuitable people to start investing.

All too often we see ads in the press and on TV that show investors in ecstatic mood. There is a particular ad for the Dragthorpe and District Building Society depicting two people in the lists of love above a caption reading, "Life begins at sixty-plus when you are financially secure."

The models — for they must be models — aren't a day over thirtyfive, though the woman has been given a streak of grey in her hair and the man carries a walking stick. The position of the man's right hand in relation to the woman's kneecap is unnecessarily titillating and the props on the table — a pot of caviar, a string of pearls, Burke's Peerage and the Kama Sutra — give an entirely false idea of the average pensioner's mise en scene.

Investment in building societies can be regarded as safe, but it does not lead to the life of Reilly — not with inflation at its present level.

2. Investment ads should not suggest that the activity is a sign of manliness, courage and daring.

Here Attica Unit Trust comes to mind. Its press ad shows an investor of fantastic muscularity strangling a lion while applying the kiss of life to his beautiful blonde wife who has obviously fainted. The message beneath this carefully posed photograph reads, "You, too, could have an investment like mine," and the fact that the buying price of Attica units has fallen by 63 per cent during the last two years is nowhere mentioned. The lion, I should add, has the word 'inflation' tattooed across his flank.

3. Ads should not claim that investment contributes to social success.

Yet all too often they do. Investors are invariably shown comparing notes with some tycoon or member of the smart set. The setting is usually the grass verge of a luxurious swimming pool and the cackle goes something like this:

Devilishly handsome young man, bronzed, wearing heavily-tinted sun glasses and Bermuda shorts and accompanied by pulchritudinous sex-symbol wearing wedding ring: "You're right, my friend, we live in difficult times. Even the healthiest of us can kick the bucket at the drop of a hat these days. It's the food we eat, the fats, sodium glutamate, thick steaks, cyclamates and so on."

Second devilishly handsome young man, bronzed, wearing a G-string, shaking cocktails over picnic hamper loaded with F & M goodies: "Partner of mine, only thirty-two, folded up only last week. Coronary, of course. Massive. No chance. Fortunately, he'd insured with Madagascar Life and his widow and kids, glorious creatures, will lack for nothing."

First dhyrn: "My, what a coincidence! I've been with Madagascar ever since I came of age. My old man insisted. And, of course, I'm fully covered so that if anything happened to me, Jill wouldn't have to worry about lolly."

Second dhyin: "Good thinking. We're all insured with Madagascar — self, missus, kids; and they handle car, house and contents insurance too. Mind you, they won't do it for anybody: you've got to be, well, you know. . . I hate snobbishness, but one has to draw the line somewhere."


4. Ads should not claim that investment is necessary for relaxation or concentration.

One that does is the picture of Cyril Cabstanleigh, the TV personage, in his garden at Henley. Cyril has his feet up and is smoking a cheroot while near at hand lies an ice bucket containing a bottle of bubbly. The prose accompanying this photograph goes. .

"Away from it all, out of the line of fire of the cameras and questioners, Cyril Cabstanleigh relaxes. He can afford to. Some years ago Cyril faced a knotty problem — whether to stay with building societies or to risk his hard-earned savings in equities.

"Wisely, he decided to invest the safe way by entrusting his funds to Maxifund Unit Trust. He no longer worries about share prices because

opecuaLor October 18, 1975

Maxifunds investment experts are quick to anticipate market changes. Result: total confidence in his financial future and the ability to relax in the garden of his country cottage.

"Cyril knows that the price of units can go down as well as up, but Maxifund units have consistently 'beaten the Index'."

5. Finally, I suggest that investment advertisements should not exploit those who are especially vulnerable.

A terrible example of this kind of ad is the one for Doubledivi Educational Insurance which appeals blatantly to parents who can't possibly afford to send their offspring to prep and public schools. The picture, a neat pen-and-ink sketch, shows a worried mother and father staring through the playground railings of a tumbledown comprehensive school, with the caption: "Is this what you really want for Christopher, Robert, Conrad, and little Madeleine? No? Then you should plan now to send them to the schools of your choice. If you start early enough, preferably before your children have been weaned, the mounting cost of private education can be covered at relatively little cost.

"Fees soar astronomically, but Doubledivi Insurance makes your savings grow magically. Unless you make provision now, the education of Christopher, Robert and, perhaps, little Madeleine could set you back £60,000 a year by 1985. If you want the kids to enjoy the same opportunities that you enjoyed, consult Doubledivi now and learn that by making small sacrifices — such as giving up smoking, holidays, meat, clothes, alcohol and entertaining — the school fees payable ten years from now will seem like chicken feed."

I have one other grouse concerning ads for local government bonds. They're not, of course, dishonest, but they don't tell the investor nearly enough about the authority. I mean, where's Druscott UDC? I put £1,000 in its care two years ago and I still can't trace the place on the map or in any gazetteer.