CMO Hunt On at E-Trade After Exec Behind Talking Babies Departs

With Nick Utton Gone, What Becomes of the Stock-Talking Toddlers?

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Nick Utton, the CMO behind E-Trade's long-running and popular ad campaign featuring talking babies, has left the financial-services firm.

The New York-based marketer declined to comment on Mr. Utton's departure, which it acknowledged in an SEC filing earlier this month. But according to people familiar with the matter, the company has begun a formal hunt for Mr. Utton's replacement. There's no time frame for when the search will be completed.

Nick Utton
Nick Utton

In the interim, agencies -- which include longtime lead creative shop, WPP's Grey -- and marketing groups are reporting to existing management. Currently E-Trade is in the midst of broad cost-reduction campaign, reducing its overall expenses, a portion of which is marketing. According to Kantar, E-Trade Financial Corp. spent $248 million on domestic measured media in 2012. The company wants to cut $30 million by 2014.

Grey remains the agency of record. Presumably the roster of shops will remain intact until at least a new CMO is in place. Mr. Utton was close both to Grey and the baby ads that have made E-Trade a recognizable household name, and questions will undoubtedly arise about the future of the stock-talking toddlers.

Grey declined to comment on the departure of Mr. Utton.

E-Trade and the agency have weathered storms before. In 2010 Lindsay Lohan sued E-Trade alleging that the company insulted her in one of the ads. The suit was later settled, and the marketer continued working with the shop.

Mr. Utton has been one of the most high-profile CMOs in the business world in recent years, in no small part due to the talking babies, which have been a hit with consumers and a staple on TV. The company has also repeatedly advertised in the Super Bowl.

Prior to his nine years with E-Trade, Mr. Utton's career included stops at financial-services and consumer-packaged-goods firms. He started out as an associate product manager at Unilever, and from there went on to hold positions of increasing responsibility at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cadbury Schweppes, Revlon International, MasterCard and JP Morgan Chase before getting to E-Trade.

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