And the winner is . . .
This year's Pensions & Investments' Defined Contribution Investment Education Awards event might not have had all the glitz of Hollywood's Oscars, but it did come with one or two surprises.
Among the plan sponsors that garnered top honors in the print category were the Colorado County Officials and Employees Retirement Association, a non-corporate entity that was the only winner to design its education materials in-house, and the American Printing House for the Blind, which had undertaken the costly and time-consuming task of converting its vendor's materials into Braille.
The other first-place winners in the initial education print category were Mohawk Carpet Corp., Conwood Co. LP, Lorillard Tobacco Co. and IBEW Electrical Industry Local 697. Otis Spunkmeyer, Washtenaw County (Mich.), Frito-Lay Inc. and the State of Oklahoma swept the top prizes in the special projects print category. Best Buy Co. Inc. and the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees snapped up first place in the video awards.
Nighteen plan sponsors received awards in 12 categories during the sixth annual P&I Defined Contribution/401(k) Conference in New York. One service provider, American Express Retirement Services, received a special award for its generic video, "Real Talk."
Winning entries were those that were identified strongly with the plan sponsor, were creatively presented although not necessarily expensively produced, and imparted the investment information in clear language. In the opinion of the judges, the winning plan sponsors had done a superior job of educating their employees and had submitted campaigns that represent the best practices in the investment education field.
Mohawk Carpet, Calhoun, Ga., took top honors among corporate employers with more than 5,000 employees. Scudder Investor Services Inc., Boston, was Mohawk's service provider.
Mohawk's education campaign featured a brochure designed to look like carpet samples, a tie-in to the company's core business. Judges also liked the color-coded investment education materials.
First prize in the large, non-corporate plan category went to the Colorado County Officials, Denver. The educational materials helped raise participation in the 457 and 401(a) plans with combined assets of $450 million to 29% from 18%.
Judges liked the graphics and photos taken of the state depicting all of the recreational activities employees may want to take advantage of when they retire. "We wanted to paint a fun, active retirement," said Rick Rodgers, director of marketing and client services for the CCOERA. "We also wanted to tie it into Colorado and the activities that people who live here participate in."
The materials also had a good explanation of the plan features, including each of its 17 investment options, judges said.
CCOERA executives decided to prepare the education materials in-house, in part because it was the cheapest option, said Mr. Rodgers, who authored the materials.
Taking top honors among corporations with between 1,000 and 5,000 employees was Lorillard Tobacco, Greensboro, N.C., assisted by T. Rowe Price Associates, Baltimore.
Lorillard captured the hearts of the judges with its clever cigar-box and cigar band packaging. Judges felt the information flowed very well and harkened to the day when kids stashed their savings in cigar boxes.
IBEW Electrical Industry Local 687, Hammond, Ind., won first place for non-corporate, midsized plans, assisted by service provider The Vanguard Group, Malvern, Pa.
The union's education materials contained a sports theme created to appeal to the union members.
Judges complimented the campaign for excelling at matching materials to the demographics. Sprinkled with phrases like "step up to the plate," the brochures and other print materials also included simple, complete and to-the-point explanations of the plan and its features.
Memphis, Tenn.-based Conwood tied with American Printing House for the Blind for first place in print campaigns for corporations with fewer than 1,000 employees. American Express is Conwood's service provider; PNC Bank, Pittsburgh, worked with American Printing House.
Conwood's entry included some generic materials, but they were customized to be clearly identified with the plan sponsor. Using the theme "Change into something comfortable," Conwood designed its materials to make its employees comfortable with the move to eight investment options from three.
American Printing, Louisville, Ky., translated all of its investment education print materials into Braille. The materials also were available in print large enough to be easily read by those with limited sight.
Cheetos tiger returns
Frito-Lay Inc., Plano, Texas, grabbed first place for special projects in print for employers with more than 5,000 employees with its paint can full of goodies. Its vendor is PartnerComm.
In addition to the tempting bag of pretzels for "brain food," Frito-Lay executives included small brochures featuring characters like Ben E. Fits and quotes from "retired" Frito-Lay spokes-characters like the Cheetos tiger in sunglasses. The judges liked the packaging and the messages.
"It is clearly geared to attract employees' attention," one judge said.
State of Oklahoma won first place in special print projects for non-corporate employers with more than 5,000 employees. Judges liked the eye-catching use of a central character, Hal the Owl. The information presented in the brochures and other materials was consistent and "clean in terms of style," the judges said. Judges also liked gimmicks such as a plastic credit card and a pull-card on the poster for the State of Oklahoma's campaign.
Otis Spunkmeyer, San Leandro, Calif., garnered first-place honors in special projects for corporations with between 1,000 and 5,000 employees for its tasty campaign featuring the company's cookies and muffins. Themes such as "Bake cookies. Save Now. Retire Sweet" with photos of the munchies were sprinkled on its posters and payroll stuffers.
"It was well-integrated with the employees and the company's line of business," one of the judges said.
Public fund a winner
Washtenaw County took top place honors for special projects in the non-corporate 1,000 to 5,000 employee category. Washtenaw's campaign was well-adapted to the employee population, was clearly written and effective, the judges said. The printed materials used golf balls to illustrate a conservative approach to investing and soccer balls to depict younger, more aggressive investors. Scudder Investments was Washtenaw's service provider and helped with the campaign.
First place in the video, enrollment category was Best Buy, with its short, fast-paced and entertaining video with "interviews" of individuals representing the company's young employee population. With the help of its service provider, American Express, Best Buy used the video to boost its enrollment almost 18 percentage points to 28.6%.
IATSE won first place for its video depicting members reading a script on the set while informing co-workers about the plan. Switching from black and white to color and back again served to keep the attention of union members.
American Express won a special mention for its video "Real Talk," which featured children trying to explain what they thought certain financial terms meant. Not only was it cute, but it also answered questions in real terms, not jargon.
Outside judges in this year's contest were Michael Bullard, senior consultant, ASA Communications Inc., New York; Mark Johnson, managing director, benefits, compliance and pensions, American Airlines Inc., Dallas-Fort Worth; Bernie Knobbe, director of employee benefits, Andersen Consulting's Global Benefits Group, Chicago; Sharon Paulus, director of compensation and benefits, Deluxe Video Services Inc., Deerfield, Ill.; Frances Scott, director of human resources, Crain Communications Inc., Chicago; Jackie Werblo, director, compensation and benefits, U.S. Industries Bath & Plumbing Products, Dallas; Mary E. Willet, director of supplemental retirement plans, Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds, Madison; and Fred D. Williams, senior institutional financial writer, American Century Investments, Kansas City, Mo.