Ameritrade

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Recent online media: Microsoft Corp.'s MSN.com and MSNBC.com, Prodigy, the Chicago Board Options Exchange (Source: Jupiter Media Metrix)

Ad forms used: Unusual banner sizes, rich media

Agency: Ogilvy Interactive, a unit of WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide

Target audience: New customers

Online exposure: In January 2001, Ameritrade had 247.8 million impressions; it increased that to 702.4 million impressions during June (Source: Jupiter); the company spent $3.8 million in June to buy more than 167 million impressions. (Source: Nielsen/NetRatings)

Okay, online brokers are having a bad year. But with that truism out of the way, another rises: Brokers still need to add clients, especially when existing clients won't invest new funds.

While some discount brokerages have focused on using their brick-and-mortar locations, others such as Omaha, Neb.-based Ameritrade Corp. have found new targeted ways to use the Internet. It's quite a strategic shift for a company that became a household word in 1999, with its wildly popular TV campaign featuring slacker hero, Stuart, who taught his boss how to "light the candle" with his Ameritrade account. This year the company, which last week said it would buy National Discount Brokers Corp., has shifted its media plan from creating ubiquity to finding efficiency.

"We found our Internet buys to be very efficient for us," says Anne Nelson, Ameritrade's chief marketing officer. Active investors who are shopping for a brokerage firm will usually do so on the Web, making it a very efficient way to prospect for clients, Ms. Nelson says. She adds that conversion rates from online ads are high, but won't divulge numbers.

A look at Ameritrade fortunes this year illustrates how important winning new customers is. In April, after first-quarter trading volume dropped sharply, the company said it would cut this year's $200 million advertising budget by $50-60 million. Online ads usually make up 30% or more of the total, but it may be higher now since online has remained steady while total spending has been reduced.

Ameritrade and its online agency, Ogilvy Interactive in New York and Chicago, are constantly testing messages, offers and banner sizes to tailor messages to sites. The company also uses many ad models, ranging from rich media e-mail to banners with built in functionality. Ms. Nelson is bullish about rich media making it easier for the company to integrate its message and brand identity as it becomes more versatile. "I have a lot of hope and optimism that the rich media will allow us to create that brand personality," she says.

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