The Nasdaq Stock Market, Inc.

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The Nasdaq Stock Market, Inc.

1 Liberty Plaza
New York, New York 10006
Telephone: (212) 401-8700
Fax: (212) 401-1024
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Nasdaq, the world's first electronic stock market, was flying high in the late 1990s, its advertising proclaiming it to be "The stock market for the next 100 years." All but synonymous with the Internet-focused "New Economy" and heavy with technology companies, the Nasdaq was dealt a severe blow when the tech sector collapsed in 2000, compounded a year later by an economy in recession. The Nasdaq's image was severely tarnished, leading to a change in advertising agencies in 2001. McKinney & Silver, an agency based in Durham, North Carolina, was hired to restore some luster to the brand. The resulting "Listed on Nasdaq" campaign was intended to reassure the investment community, especially high-level corporate executives, that Nasdaq was still a great place to be listed for both tech and non-tech companies alike.

The Nasdaq spent approximately $30 million a year on the campaign, which broke in August 2002. The campaign's television and print ads featured CEOs from prominent companies listed on the Nasdaq, including Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, Staples's Tom Sternberg, and Starbucks's Howard Schultz. In the television spots their inspiring comments were intercut to portray the Nasdaq as a progressive and innovative stock market.

The "Listed on Nasdaq" campaign won a 2005 EFFIE Award. It also succeeded in restoring confidence in the brand without also driving up the ratings of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), a first in Nasdaq advertising history. In addition, the campaign helped to stem the flow of company defections to the NYSE as Nasdaq regained dominance in initial public offerings of stock. The campaign ran into 2005.


When Nasdaq was launched in 1971 as the world's first electronic stock market, it was considered a "bridge" exchange, a stepping stone for companies looking to eventually gain a listing on the American Stock Exchange or the New York Stock Exchange. Later major corporations, including Microsoft and Dell, opted to stay on the Nasdaq because they preferred its electronic market-making concept (matching buyers and sellers using computers instead of specialist brokerage firms), and in the 1990s Nasdaq become the natural home for high-tech companies, most of which, when they grew large enough to qualify for a listing on an old-guard exchange, preferred to stick with the Nasdaq. As a result the Nasdaq enjoyed tremendous growth during the economic boom of the late 1990s, prompting its marketers to craft the tagline "The stock market for the next 100 years." It appeared to be an accurate statement at the time, given that between 1990 and 1995 the index grew from 416 to 755, and that in the second half of the decade it soared to an incredible peak of 5049 in March 2000.

As the Internet companies (the so-called New Economy) that had fueled much of the Nasdaq's growth began to fail in what was dubbed the bursting of the "dot-com bubble," the Nasdaq saw the bottom fall out of its market in 2000. All but equated with the New Economy, the Nasdaq's reputation was tainted, and the exchange found itself besieged from all angles, from the NYSE on one side and the electronic communications networks (ECNs)—which eliminated third parties in the trading of stocks in a purely electronic environment—on the other. To make matters worse, the economy slipped into a recession in 2001. According to Paula Dwyer and Amy Borrus writing in BusinessWeek, a poor economy created a vicious circle for the Nasdaq: "Wall Street firms retrench, leasing few NASDAQ trading terminals. As companies falter, their stocks are delisted, cutting NASDAQ's fee revenue. When listings decline, the market receives fewer quotes from market-makers and ECNs and can't collect as much from reselling the data. As fewer shares trade, transaction fees shrink." In essence, Nasdaq was soon fighting for its very survival, far from certain that it would be around in one year, let alone 100.

After a shake-up at the top ranks of management, in April 2001 Nasdaq brought in a new marketing head, Denise Benou Stires, who expressed confidence in the exchange's chances of rebuilding its image with investors and the public in general. "I feel like I've inherited one of the most extraordinary brands in the world," she told Mercedes M. Cardona of Advertising Age. "I'm not sure you could find a reasonably affluent Mongolian shopkeeper who doesn't know Nasdaq." She quickly put the $30 million advertising account into review, looking for a fresh approach after 12 years with the New York ad agency Messner Vetere Berge McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG. The agencies that participated all had Nasdaq-listed corporate parents, an intentional consideration. In August the winner emerged: North Carolina-based McKinney & Silver of the Havas Group.


Although the "Listed on Nasdaq" campaign would reach the general public, especially through television spots, the target audience was really the investment community, particularly corporate chief executives and other top-level officers who played key roles in deciding where a public company chose to be listed. The campaign sought to assure these executives that Nasdaq was more than the market for failed Internet companies and was a suitable home for both tech and non-tech companies alike. More important than attracting new listings, however, was the need to prevent defections. Stires admitted to Alicia Griswold of Adweek that "Our messaging has to appeal to the chief officers of our listed companies so that they feel re-affirmed by choosing us." Only on a secondary level did the "Listed on Nasdaq" campaign target investors.


Having merged with the American Stock Exchange in 1998, Nasdaq's only major exchange competitor was the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). While Nasdaq may have harbored dreams of luring away NYSE companies with the "Listed on Nasdaq" campaign, in truth only one company in 30 years had ever made the switch. A more realistic goal was to stem the flow of defections from the Nasdaq to the NYSE and regain its share of IPOs (initial public offering of stock). Should the Nasdaq lose sufficient strength, it also faced the loss of business to small regional exchanges, such as the ones in Boston, Cincinnati, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco (the Pacific Exchange), and Philadelphia.


NASDAQ is an acronym for National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations.

A more immediate threat was the ECNs (electronic communications networks), which, unlike the Nasdaq, did not rely on market makers (specialist firms that bought stock and for a commission matched up sellers and buyers). Rather, ECNs merely coordinated buy and sell orders electronically for a fee, acting more as matchmakers than market makers. Arguably, Nasdaq only had itself to blame for the rise of ECNs, which had grown out of a Nasdaq price-fixing scandal in the mid-1990s. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) responded by encouraging the growth of ECNs, some of which were backed by Wall Street firms. By the time the new campaign broke, ECNs had captured nearly half of the trading volume in Nasdaq-listed stocks, roughly two-and-a-half times as much as Nasdaq was able to do through its own trading system. Competing against the ECNs was no easy task, because they were also Nasdaq's customers, and should Nasdaq create its own ECN it would also compete against other customers, the dealers. Nasdaq tried to launch its own ECN, SuperMontage, in 2001, but ECN complaints to the SEC forced a two-year delay in the rollout of the system. What was eventually unveiled suffered from so many compromises along the way that it was no match for the ECNs on their own turf.


In preparation for the "Listed on Nasdaq" campaign, McKinney & Silver conducted research with a number of people in the target group. The agency asked them where the computer companies Microsoft, Apple, and Intel were listed, and invariably the answer was the NYSE, the assumption being that any companies that large and successful were out of place on the Nasdaq. The subjects were then presented with list of three Nasdaq-listed companies—Costco, PETsMART, and Starbucks—and once again the subjects believed that they were listed on the NYSE because they were not technology companies. As a result of this research, it was clear that even highly knowledgeable people like top corporate executives harbored misperceptions about the Nasdaq that the campaign would have to address.

The goal of the "Listed on Nasdaq" campaign was to restore credibility to the brand while making some subtle changes to common views about the Nasdaq. Instead of "high tech" Nasdaq wanted to be seen as "progressive," and rather than "high risk" it preferred to be known as "innovative." The Nasdaq also wanted to draw a distinction between itself and the NYSE by making the point that a large percentage of Nasdaq-listed companies were led by their founders, who McKinney & Silver would portray as visionaries. To accomplish these ends the agency decided that, rather than promote Nasdaq the institution, the advertisements would feature some of the visionary CEOs of Nasdaq-listed companies, including both tech companies and other kinds of companies. It would be in this context the Nasdaq was to be positioned as progressive and innovative.

McKinney & Silver filmed interviews with 20 CEOs for the "Listed on Nasdaq" campaign and then put together commercials that each featured three of the executives. The media strategy for airing these spots centered on the tendency of the investment community to be voracious and particular consumers of news as well as to be highly literate. Hence, commercial time was mostly bought on select cable news channels, including CNN, MSNBC, and Bloomberg. The print component of the campaign was focused on mainstream business and finance publications, including Forbes and Fortune, as well as more highbrow fare such as the New Yorker.

The "Listed on Nasdaq" campaign broke in August 2002 with four television spots. The CEOs profiled included high-tech stars, such as Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, John Chambers of Cisco, Michael Dell of Dell Inc., and Craig Barrett of Intel, as well as heads of non-tech successes, including Staples' Tom Sternberg and Starbucks' Howard Schultz. Excerpts of their comments were intercut with each other to fashion the spots. Highlights included Chambers's comment: "I would hope that people would think about Cisco in terms of changing the way the world works, lives, plays and learns"; Dell revealing, "At first my parents were pretty upset with me when I dropped out of college, but after a while they got over it"; and Ballmer recalling, "When I first came to Microsoft, my father asked what software was. My mother asked a more interesting question: why would a person ever need a computer." The tagline for the spots was "Visionaries. Listed on Nasdaq," followed by the featured CEOs announcing the name of their companies and one of them proclaiming, "Listed on Nasdaq." A second round of spots premiered in December 2002, and the CEO interviews were also used to create a long-form video that Nasdaq used when meeting with prospective listed companies.

In the print portion of the campaign Starbucks was also featured along with such companies as eBay and Nasdaq's largest banking company, Fifth Third Bank. The ad for Fifth Third Bank, as an example, showed a signed Post-It note from CEO George Schaefer. His message: "There are 86,400 seconds in a day. On your mark, get set, go."


The auction system for selling stock dates back to 1792, when two dozen brokers, who often met informally under a buttonwood tree at 68 Wall Street in Manhattan, signed an agreement to trade only with one another. This two-sentence document, signed under the tree, became known as the Buttonwood Agreement and would lead to the creation of the New York Stock Exchange in 1863.


The "Listed on Nasdaq" campaign was successful on many levels. In 2005 it garnered McKinney & Silver a Gold EFFIE Award (Financial Services/Image category), given out annually by the New York American Marketing Association in recognition of the year's most effective advertising campaigns. More importantly, the campaign, according to McKinney & Silver, helped to restore confidence in the Nasdaq brand. In a write-up for the EFFIE Awards, the agency maintained that measures of confidence in the brand and its positioning had improved dramatically, "driven by proven recall of the campaign." It added, "This is the first time that advertising improved perceptions of NASDAQ without improving NYSE ratings." McKinney & Silver also claimed that the campaign helped to stem the flow of defections to the NYSE and that Nasdaq had regained its dominant share of IPOs. The agency noted that, 16 months after the campaign had begun, the Nasdaq grew 76 percent, or twice the rate of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (an market index that tracked the growth of high-cap companies), which grew 38 percent during the same period. The agency then commented, "It would be foolish to take credit for this rise. Then again, traders will tell you that psychology moves markets …"


Cardona, Mercedes M. "Denise Benou Stires, Nasdaq; Perception is Redefined." Advertising Age, June 3, 2002, p. S8.

Dwyer, Paula, and Amy Borrus. "NASDAQ: The Fight of Its Life." BusinessWeek, August 11, 2003, p. 64.

Garfield, Bob. "Nasdaq Taps Heavy Hitters to Shore Up Battered Image." Advertising Age, September 9, 2002, p. 29.

Griswold, Alicia. "Nasdaq Taps McKinney & Silver." Adweek, August 13, 2001, p. 3.

McMains, Andrew, and Ann M. Mack. "McKinney Contends for Nasdaq." Adweek, May 28, 2001, p. 5.

"Nasdaq Ads Spotlight CEOs." Adweek (eastern ed.), August 19, 2002, p. 28.

Nilson, Kim. "Ad Shop Facing Gauntlet of Pillowtex Failure, Nasdaq Woes." Raleigh (NC) Triangle Business Journal, August 15, 2003, p. 12.

"Overcoming NASDAQ's Crisis." BusinessWeek, August 11, 2003, p. 108.

Smith, Samantha Thompson. "Raleigh, N.C., Ad Agency Wins Nasdaq Account." Raleigh (NC) News & Observer, August 8, 2001.

Traugot, Catherine Liden. "Crafting Campaigns." Raleigh (NC) Triangle Business Journal, September 6, 2002, p. 19.

                                                  Ed Dinger

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The Nasdaq Stock Market, Inc.

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