CLOSE-UP: Live Issue/Knight FT ad - Treating the FT as the City 'trade paper' hits the right audiences

Readers of the Financial Times might have noticed the decision by one Thomas Joyce to take out a full-page ad in the 12 June edition announcing his appointment as the chief executive and president of the Knight Trading Group. Certainly he will have hoped so.

The ad took the form of an open letter, booked by the US agency Critt, Graham & Mark, in which Joyce addressed the investment community, explaining how proud he was to join.

The way he chose to announce his appointment highlights the cultural difference between British corporate leaders and their American counterparts; while the former might think of using a direct marketing campaign to target this readership, Joyce clearly felt no such inclination to temper his eulogising, steaming straight in with a £72,500 full-page international ad. Notes one industry observer: "It's got 'Yank' written all over it."

Joyce is doubtless a good candidate for the job in question; the 47-year-old American had spent more than 14 years at Merrill Lynch & Co before moving to Sanford C Bernstein & Co as its global head of trading - although for only five months. He joined Knight at the end of last month.

"Tactically Knight is using the arrival of a new chief executive, who has come from two probably significant competitors, to promote Knight's cause to a broader potential customer base, Chris White-Smith, the Telegraph Group's display advertising director, says.

There's no doubt that choosing this paper to announce his mission statement lets Joyce talk straight to the company's target audience. The FT offers a unique environment, having evolved into an international title while retaining its image as the City's "trade paper".

Through the letter, Joyce appears to be trying to capitalise on this village feel of the global business readership. It's not that unusual a move, with open letters and chairmen's statements appearing in the FT's pages far more regularly than in the business section of The Times or The Guardian.

Still, the purpose of the ad is unclear. One rather bemused FT reader says: "I don't think any deals will be written off the back of this - it is just a bit of flag-waving. Pretty expensive flag-waving at the price but there's a lot at stake.

To say the investment market environment is a challenging one at present is an understatement. And while industry experts are divided over how long this will take to change, they are united on the fact that the chances of it happening in the near future are slim.

In his opening statement about his appointment, Joyce admitted the market environment had "hurt Knight", but at the same time also talked of his wish to "reposition the company for long-term success".

In eulogising so publicly about Knight's innovative approach and potential, Joyce is attempting to draw a line under what has been happening in the investment market, in an effort to distance the company from the sector's recent past and the loss of credibility that has resulted from scandals such as the Enron fiasco. "It's an attempt to regain credibility and trust for the markets, Lorna Tilbian, a media analyst at Numis, says.

But, ultimately, will this ad benefit either Joyce or Knight? "If Joyce is someone really special it'll make a hell of a difference. It all depends on how people perceive him, Tilbian says.

As a profile-raiser though, it's certainly done the job.


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