See E-Trade's First Post-Baby Work Meant for More-Mature Audience

Company Acknowledges That Investing Isn't So Easy a Baby Can Do It

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This weekend, audiences will be treated to a new image of E-Trade: One that is, according to the company, more serious. Or at least more serious than a talking baby.

The campaign, which breaks this weekend around the NCAA Final Four games, is centered around "Type E," the kind of people who are in charge of their finances and keeping an eye out for milestones like retirement. It was created by agency Ogilvy & Mather, the agency that won a short review last year after the brokerage split from longtime shop Grey, New York.

Liza Landsman, chief marketing officer at E-Trade, said that the company started off by trying to really take a look at where its customers were. "There has been change in the space, with customers choosing self-directed platforms over brokerage firms," she said. E-Trade now sees its target market less as day-traders playing the market and more as investors who might want to go it alone but are still looking for retirement account -- and tools to further their education. "They want a better handle, more control. Type E is a reflection of our customers, who are comfortable enough to ask for help when they need it."

And the baby, who ceremoniously quit last week, wasn't the right face for a more grown-up audience.

"It all starts with the customer," Ms. Landsman said at the Ad Age Digital Conference this week. "When I joined last summer, everyone told me they loved the baby. And I would say, 'Great do you have an account with us?' And they would mostly say, 'No.'"

But she was careful not to disrespect the child. "The baby is iconic; it's fantastic advertising. At the moment it landed on the scene, it captured something that was important at the time -- online investing is so easy a baby can do it. What has happened over time is the baby ate the brand. It didn't make sense for us to pretend investing was easy. Hence the baby went into retirement."

She also pointed out that the brand wasn't giving up on its sense of humor. "Irreverence is key to our identity as a brand," she said at the conference. "We're very rooted in the democratization of investing. The new work is still very funny and irreverent but is much more representative of where we have come and where we are going as an enterprise."

E-Trade's new print work.
E-Trade's new print work.

The campaign features two parts -- the first will break this weekend, while the second part will feature actor Kevin Spacey and will debut later this month.

The TV portion that debuts this weekend includes "Epic Musical" (above), featuring professionals from various industries crowing about how they "know a thing about an IRA," and declaring that they're "Type E." The Kevin Spacey ads feature the actor as a "Talent Scout," tapping the shoulders of Type E customers, letting them know that they are, in fact, Type E, and they should work with E-Trade.

Russell Messner, global managing director, Ogilvy & Mather, said that the agency learned from "extensive research" that the brand's customers and prospects enjoy the journey of becoming a better investor -- thus identifying them as "Type E."

Print and out-of-home ads show what Type E looks like -- a smart figure in a suit, surrounded by big block lettering featuring phrases like "My retirement years will not take place in a windowless conference room" and "I don't want my golden years to be just gold plated."

The company's advertising and market-development expenses decreased 22% in 2013 to $108.4 million, according to company SEC filings.

Ms. Landsman said that her current plan is to "spend a little bit more" this year. However, one shift they're making is moving dollars from TV into digital, mobile and social channels, and new ones like radio and out-of-home.