CAMPAIGNS: Web site PR - New financial Web site is real scream

Client:, developed by ING/ReliaStar Financial


PR Team: Carmichael Lynch Spong (Minneapolis)

Campaign: Aaarrgghhh!!! Media Relations Campaign Drives Traffic to


Time Frame: April 15, 2000 - ongoing

Budget: dollars 490,000

Who hates financial planning? Everybody, except maybe the rich.

Financial services company ING/ReliaStar wanted to reach everybody with

an integrated marketing campaign centered around a Web site


"Seventy-five percent of Americans dislike or avoid financial planning,"

explains Laurie Zenner, partner at Carmichael Lynch Spong, which handled

PR for the campaign.


ING used humor to bring the site the kind of profile enjoyed by and Quicken. com. The Web site motif is a guy screaming, and

that irreverence ripples throughout the site and the campaign.

"There are 13,000 financial planning sites," Zenner says. "ING thought

if we can make the site fun, it will take a lot of the intimidation out

of financial planning for people." The idea was to acknowledge people's

feelings of confusion about the issue and use the media to draw visitors

to the site, she adds.


Zenner's group, along with the internal PR team at ING, developed a

media kit that hollered for attention. "It was a run-of-the-mill media

kit with the screaming guy on the cover," Zenner describes. "But (an

audio chip was inserted so) it screams at you when you open it. We sent

it to finance reporters who are used to getting really dull releases. We

have clips of TV anchors opening our media kit on the air."

Twelve hundred kits were mailed to beat reporters at general interest

outlets - major dailies, monthly magazines and some TV and radio


The team nixed reporters at publications such as Money magazine because

their readers are already interested in financial planning, Zenner


ING's research showed that women and gays were demographic niches worth

reaching. "Women worry about being divorced or widowed," Zenner


"Gays worry about how to set up financial plans to include a significant

other if you are unable to marry." The team placed content and links on

women's sites and online publications for gays.

Jan Holman, a financial planner, conducted a satellite media tour.

Eighteen TV and radio reporters interviewed her in New York, and she did

a number of follow-up radio spots in Minneapolis.

The team also posted a series of 20 tip-oriented news releases on the

Articles Research Association. One tip about how newlyweds should go

about comingling their finances proved evergreen, producing stories for


The Screaming Guy was turned into a cartoon for viral e-mail


The e-mail, which was linked to the site, shows the cartoon character

screaming so much that his lungs fall out and he drops dead. Fearful of

spamming, the firm's staffers sent the e-mail to 300 friends and asked

them to pass it along if they liked it.


News of reached 145 million people through

more than 1,000 print, broadcast and online stories.

It was named Web site of the week by the NBC's Early Today show, USA

Today, CNN, and CNBC. Articles by the Associated Press and the Industry

Standard dubbed it a "leading" Web site for financial planning, placing

the site in the company of heavyweights like, as ING


In all, about 200 pieces were published as a result of a February AP


An April 2001 poll showed that 41% of the site's visitors heard about it

through a news article, and 20% through a friend.

The site boasts one million visitors to date; about 30% are repeats.

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