Ameritrade breaks new ads in ongoing $200 mil effort

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Ameritrade Corp. breaks a new campaign this week as part of its $200 million push to lead the online brokerage segment.

The latest campaign includes TV, print, online and direct marketing efforts. TV spots begin Sept. 15 and print ads start Sept. 16 in publications such as Barron's, Investor's Business Daily, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

The previous effort, tagged "Believe in yourself," was designed to lure skeptical investors to the Web when it was still a new medium, said Anne Nelson, VP-marketing and product development. This new effort assumes consumers are comfortable with the medium and issues a strong call to action.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE

"People now are very aware of online investing. . . . The challenge right now is convincing people that Ameritrade is the right partner for online investing," said Ms. Nelson.

The new effort from OgilvyOne, Chicago, tagged "It's how you get somewhere on Wall Street," retains the same tongue-in-cheek attitude as the previous campaign. TV spots show slice-of-life scenes, such as a harried plugged-in road warrior comparing notes with a calm fellow traveler who turns out to be trading on Ameritrade via his cell phone. One print ad shows a picture of a runner in starting blocks with the words, "If you're waiting for just the right time to start investing online, we have one thing to say. Bang."

The first flight of TV spots will go on minus Stuart -- the wild-haired slacker hero who taught his boss how to "light this candle" in earlier ads -- who has been sidelined by the Screen Actors Guild strike. The character will resurface in a spot that has already been written and will be shot when the strike is over, Ms. Nelson said.

SATURATION AD SPENDING

In spite of this year's technology stocks' meltdown or investors' queasiness about the Internet, Ameritrade plans to continue promoting aggressively. The company has attacked the online brokerage market with saturation ad spending, which helped it mount a challenge to online brokerage powerhouses Charles Schwab & Co. and E-Trade Group. Ameritrade increased its ad spending from approximately $60 million in fiscal 1999 to $200 million during this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

According to an analysis by brokerage U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, the spring market correction and the traditional summer slowdown hit the online systems hard during the second quarter, but the industry still added 1.3 million new accounts and assets dropped only 2.6%, as opposed to a 13.3% drop in the Nasdaq market average.

But Piper Jaffray's analysts noted Ameritrade held up far better than rivals such as Schwab and Fidelity Investments' Powerstreet. Ameritrade's daily volume dropped only 14% compared to a 23% average drop for the segment, and it increased its share of the online brokerage market to 10.6% in the second quarter from 9.5% the first quarter.

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