Online Exclusive: Account Action


Marks Agency's Return to Online Brokerage Sector

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NEW YORK ( -- E-Trade Financial Corp. has tapped Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, as its new advertising agency of record, the online brokerage said in a statement.
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The announcement follows a review that began after the marketer split with its former agency, Omnicom's Martin/Williams. The agency had the account from 2003 until July. Over the summer, it became clear that E-Trade, having recently hired a new chief marketing officer, former JP Morgan Chase executive Nick Utton, was seeking new creative ideas.

Project was a springboard
BBDO handled a fourth-quarter project for the marketer, which ended up serving as the springboard for this new relationship.

The review, in which BBDO and Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency were the finalists, was similar to the one used by Mr. Utton when he was the marketing chief at MasterCard International. A large number of agencies presented concepts that were submitted to extensive testing, and the agency presenting the best one was selected, Mr. Utton said. Research results played a "critical role" in the decision, he said. For MasterCard, he hired Interpublic's McCann Erickson Worldwide in 1997 on the basis of its "Priceless" campaign.

'The big idea'
"We do have the big idea from BBDO," Mr. Utton said. He would not disclose details, but hinted the upcoming effort will depart from the current "Join the revolution" campaign launched by BBDO last year. New work is expected to break in the first quarter.

"'Revolutionary' has negative connotations for some," the marketing executive said. "We want to be the intelligent activist" on behalf of financial services consumers.

Once spent $100 million
E-Trade is projected to spend $60 million on measured media in 2005, the company said. E-Trade, which handles brokerage, banking and retail for consumers as well as corporate and institutional customers, was a big dot-com era ad spender whose media budget had been in excess of $100 million. Since then, E-Trade has experimented with a variety of messages, cutting back on splashy events such as its sponsorship of the Super Bowl halftime show in favor of more targeted advertising and direct-marketing efforts.

The account move is just in time for a potential recovery in the online trading arena, a darling of the late 1990s that was battered during the recession. As recently as fall 2004, brokerages like E-Trade and Charles Schwab Corp. were reporting significant increases in the amount on online trading activity.

Mr. Utton also hinted the new work will focus on the whole breadth of financial product offered by E-Trade. Since the tech bust of 2000, the company has increasingly steered away from depending on brokerage fees for revenue and increased its focus on other businesses, such as banking and mortgages, to offset the brokerage downslide during the recession.

Return to the category
For BBDO, the win marks a return to the financial services category, a space from which it had been absent since losing the Schwab account in 2002 to Omnicom sibling GSD&M. That account recently moved on to Havas' Euro RSCG.

BBDO lost out in the 2003 review that saw the E-Trade account go to Martin/Williams.