Morgan Stanley may be one of the giants of American banking, with a long and storied history dating back 87 years, but its new global campaign presents a rather fresher face. It’s the first global campaign for the brand since 2019 and it’s a very conscious effort to present a modernised business to a next-gen audience.
According to Alice Milligan, chief marketing officer, the campaign follows a number of internal changes at Morgan Stanley. With a number of acquisitions like E*TRADE, Solium Capital and Eaton Vance, the financial giant has shifted its structure to a ‘house of brands’ set up and now has a broader base of offerings to communicate.
“With recent strategic acquisitions such as E*TRADE, it’s an incredibly exciting time for Morgan Stanley,” says Alice. “We have an immensely strong brand to start with, but the addition of new products and platforms that serve everyone from self-directed investors to companies undergoing an IPO, has been a game changer. Now, we’re intently focused on integrating those brands and positioning the firm as a ‘house of brands’ for the future that leverages all of our resources as one team to drive greater impact and help our clients uncover new opportunities.”
The campaign’s strapline, ‘Old School Grit. New World Ideas.’ encapsulates that future-forward attitude while also keeping hold of Morgan Stanley’s heritage and experience, which stretches back to 1935. It’s also, tonally, a surprising direction for the financial sector - the grit idea is rough and punchy, and the line plays with contradiction with bold and playful attitude.
And the choice to do things differently and stand out from the competition was very much intentional. “When you look at the financial services category, I think a lot of the advertising can be quite interchangeable and we really wanted to shake things up and show the Morgan Stanley brand in a fresh, modern way that’s going to appeal to a much broader audience,” reveals Alice. “And you’ll see this reflected within our marketing mix as well as we’ve added a number of mainstream media partners ranging from Condé Nast Traveler to People and Vogue.”
And that shift extends to a visual transformation for Morgan Stanley’s marketing. Aesthetically, the team knew they needed to create a look that would feel approachable and warm and defy the more formal, institutional norms of the sector.
“Yes, it’s a very new, cinematic aesthetic for us that is intended to connect with audiences on an emotional level and humanise the firm,” reflects Alice. “We’ve seen through customer research – especially with women and younger investors – that financial services firms can be seen as quite intimidating and we wanted to break that down and show that we are truly a firm that serves the unique needs of all.”
The campaign was directed by award-winning duo Salsa and has photography by Pep Avila. Creatively, it was devised by agency Lippincott, which is a relatively new partner for Morgan Stanley. And that new partner at the table appears to have been very helpful when coming up with a fresh voice and perspective for the brand.
“Lippincott has been an incredibly collaborative partner throughout this journey,” says Alice. “They really *got* our brand, saw our vision and worked with us in lockstep every step of the way to get this into market.”
Pulling the whole thing together is musician and movie star, Janelle Monae, who voices the hero spot. She’s a real catch for the brand, embodying exactly the mindset they wish to present and the people they hope to reach with the campaign.
“We are thrilled to partner with Janelle on this launch!” says Alice. “Not only is she an incredibly talented singer, songwriter and actor, but someone who truly embodies the grit and vision showcased in this campaign, having unapologetically charted her own path, overcoming obstacles and blazing trails along the way.”
The campaign launches with high-impact media placements spanning TV (Good Morning America, CNN, Bloomberg); digital (CNBC, Financial Times, Forbes); print (Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times); audio (Pandora, Spotify); out-of-home; social, etc. and also incorporates a number of new mainstream media partners for the firm including Condé Nast Traveler, People and Vogue as part of the brand’s strategic efforts to expand their marketing mix.