NEW YORK - EMI-Capitol Music Group, H.E. Butt Grocery Co., Toys 'R' Us, American Stores Co. and Rite-Aid Corp. took top honors among corporate plan sponsors in the 1998 Pensions & Investments Defined Contribution Investment Education Awards.
The Public Employees' Retirement Association of Colorado led the non-corporate plan sponsors, winning two first-place awards. The Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Wisconsin Deferred Compensation Program won one each.
The awards were presented last week - to 15 winners in eight categories - during the annual P&I Defined Contribution/401(k) conference in New York.
Winners stood out for their highly customized, graphically appealing materials and for the completeness of the investment information presented.
Indeed, their programs embrace the best practices of what constitutes high-quality, effective information, at a time when participant communications has renewed importance.
They delivered complex investment information without using a heavy hand, and encouraged participants to take an active role in planning their long-term financial future. All took an entertaining, interesting, usually brief and quick-hitting approach.
H.E. Butt, San Antonio, Texas, took the top spot in initial education among large employers with more than 5,000 employees. PartnerCom Inc., an Arlington, Texas, benefits communications firm, prepared the materials for the grocery chain.
Black & Decker Corp., Towson, Md., came in second, followed by Florida Progress Corp., St. Petersburg, Fla. T. Rowe Price Inc. prepared the Black & Decker materials; Vanguard Group, Malvern, Pa., prepared the Florida Progress materials.
EMI-Capitol, New York, was first in the initial education category for employers with 5,000 or fewer employees, with materials prepared by T. Rowe Price. Helmerich & Payne Inc., Tulsa, was second; followed by Delaware North Companies Inc., Buffalo. N.Y. Vanguard Group and Mueller & Wister Inc., Norristown, Pa., are Helmerich & Payne's service providers. American Express Retirement Services is Delaware North's service provider.
The H.E. Butt entry was impressive both for its content and its appealing graphic delivery. The grocer's colorful materials are chock-full of food-related word plays.
Like H.E. Butt's, Black and Decker's materials were well customized and attractive. Judges singled out B&D, however, for including information on investment fees - information not found in other entries.
EMI-Capitol executives designed their education campaign to appeal to the MTV generation, a reasonable approach for an employee base of younger workers. The company's record labels include Virgin Records, Capitol Records and Angel Records.
Christine Santangelo, EMI plan manager, said her background in the benefits consulting business helped develop - in conjunction with T. Rowe Price - a campaign laced with 1970s "retro" humor, images and colors.
"The 401(k) was familiar to us but was not that exciting to our employees," said Ms. Santangelo. "Our employees were too cool for that plan and that's why we went for that particular theme. We tried to make it fun and interesting."
She said EMI converted to T. Rowe Price from American Express Retirement Services "and communications was a large part of our decision." She said the campaign helped boost participation percentage rates from the "low 70s" to more than 80%.
Toys 'R' Us, Paramus, N.J., was first in the ongoing education category among corporate plan sponsors. IBM Corp., Stamford, Conn., and US WEST Inc., Englewood, Colo., tied for second. American Express Retirement Services is the service provider for Toys 'R' Us. Bankers Trust Co. and Frank Russell Co. are the IBM vendors, while Bankers Trust prepared the US WEST materials.
The Colorado Employees' fund, Denver, won first place in the initial education category for non-corporate funds and an investment information award for its video production, which incorporated the same graphic concepts as its print materials in a brief, informative fashion. The fund produces its materials internally.
The Southern Baptist Convention, Dallas, and the Wisconsin Deferred Compensation Program, Madison, tied for top honors for ongoing education programs in the non-corporate category. Frank Russell Co. assisted the Southern Baptists in preparing its materials; National Deferred Compensation Inc. is Wisconsin's service provider.
A special award for creativity was presented to American Stores, Salt Lake City, for its brief and humorous video, "The Saga of Coyote Pete." The video was produced by Fidelity Investments, the company's service provider.
The video from Rite-Aid Corp., Harrisburg, Pa., received an investment information award. Its video combined step-by-step instructions for completing plan enrollment forms with substantial investment education information. Prudential Investments Retirement Services produced the video.
A clear favorite of the judges was the American Stores video, featuring Coyote Pete and Trigger (his shopping cart), in the parking lot of an American Stores supermarket.
The video, mailed to all 50,000 plan participants, was designed to stimulate interest in the plan to coincide with the company's annual contribution.
Duane D. Whitney, director-retirement plans, said the company produces a video annually and it is an effective communications vehicle for a diverse population.
The video also includes an appearance by Vic Lund, chairman of the board and chief executive officer, who emphasizes the importance of the plan to employees.
Judges found the Rite-Aid video one of the most informative and complete examples of how to complete the plan enrollment process.
Thomas Foley, director-employee savings plans, said the video is used in its 3,000 stores to help new employees and non-participants get started. He said Rite-Aid is considering another video to assist employees become familiar with the plan's new voice-response system.
Judges for the 1998 P&I Defined Contribution Investment Education Awards program were Anthony Amato, director of compensation & benefits at Hard Rock Cafes in Orlando, Fla.; Don Blandin, president of the American Savings Education Council, Washington; Don Templeman, division manager-Deferred Compensation Division for the State of Illinois, Springfield; Sharon Parkes, manager-trust investments, Halliburton Co., Houston; Bernie Knobbe, manager of employee benefits, Morton International Inc., Chicago; and Michael Bullard, senior consultant, ASA Communications Inc., New York. P&I editor Nancy Webman, editorial director Michael Clowes and reporter Fred Williams also served as judges.