The roaring economy and heightened competition from a profusion of online brokerages -- which alone will lay out an estimated $1 billion in ads this year -- are stoking the trend. Add to the cacophony other financial service providers including banks, credit cards and brokers readying new efforts this fall, from Ameritrade and Discover Card to Fidelity Investments and American Express Co.
There is no one factor pushing spending. Financial mavens note that the money is out there for the taking from the first wave of baby boomer retirees and other new investors, while the Internet has opened stock trading to the masses.
"This is the time when the market is growing . . . now is the time to acquire those accounts, build those relationships," said J. Peter Ricketts, senior VP-marketing and sales at 25-year-old discount broker Ameritrade. "These millions of people coming into the market -- that is happening now."
The fall "is going to be enormous" for financial services ads, said Peter Post, president of Emmerling Post, New York, which handles TD Waterhouse Group. His client, in fact, was nearly crowded out of autumn TV time by the proliferation of financial advertisers and online brokerages. But TV ads will break, as scheduled, on Oct. 4 for its $100 million, celebrity-studded effort. That follows the print component begun Sept. 22.
The campaign is the company's first large-scale effort for its online brokerage since Toronto Dominion Bank bought Waterhouse Securities last year and consolidated all its worldwide brokerage units under the TD Waterhouse name.
The ads feature former basketball coach Phil Jackson and actors Jackie Chan, Geena Davis, Hector Elizondo and Jerry Orbach in vignettes that show them trading stocks that reflect their public personas. Both print and TV ads are tagged "Xprs Yrslf" in type suggestive of brokerage ticker symbols.
Market mania is raging enough that at least one advertiser, Fidelity Investments, is using its ads to remind consumers not to get too carried away with stock euphoria.
PLAYING TOO HARD?
Stephen Cone, president of Fidelity Customer Marketing & Development, said that the explosion of online brokerages and financial publications may be leading investors to play the market too hard. As an example, he said the average length of time an investor holds the stock of Priceline.com before selling it is four days, while even a blue-chip holding like IBM Corp. has an average lifetime of only 13 months.
"I think a lot of advertising out there makes [investing] look too easy," Mr. Cone said.
Fidelity, therefore, is running a sober pitch tagged "We help you invest responsibly," featuring vice chairman and star money manager Peter Lynch interacting with investors. Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston, handles.
Fidelity will also carry through the "Invest responsibly" theme in a campaign for its own online brokerage before yearend, estimated at up to $50 million. That campaign will be the first effort from Gotham, New York.
FIRST ADS FROM MOTLEY FOOL
Also trying to knock some sense into investors is online jester the Motley Fool in its first-ever campaign started this month. TV and radio, from the Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., initially broke in San Francisco, New York and Washington; outdoor efforts in all three cities follow Oct. 1.
The campaign targets investors looking for plain-English information, not financial jargon, said Sheila MacKeigan, marketing chief. Spots have the same lighthearted tone as the Web site, with a befuddled investor hearing off-the-wall advice he can't fathom. It's all tagged "Fool.com. Financial advice you can actually understand."
Also coming in October is a new financial Internet portal, OnMoney, a subsidiary of Ameritrade. That launch will be supported with $50 million in advertising from DDB Worldwide, Chicago. Ameritrade is separately running a TV, print, direct mail, online and out-of-home campaign tagged "Believe in yourself." By the time its fiscal year ends Sept. 30, Ameritrade itself will have spent $50 million to $60 million on advertising, handled by OgilvyOne, Chicago.
GOODBY'S DISCOVER ADS
Even the top credit cards are adding their voices to the fray.
Discover Financial Services has cranked out a new TV campaign for Discover Card, its first work from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, which won the $80 million account in March. The new effort is tagged "There's always more to Discover," and concentrates on the value of the card, such as its cash-back feature, while inviting comparisons with competing cards' features, said Jeff Goodby, agency president.
American Express Co., meanwhile bridges the online and financial worlds with its new Blue "smart card" this month. Ogilvy & Mather, New York, created TV and print while Bronner.com executed an extensive online and outdoor campaign.
John Hayes, exec VP-global advertising and branding at AmEx, said the Blue card's ad splash is calculated to convey that the new card is a revolutionary development. In fact, ads refer to Blue as "Evolving credit" or "A little piece of the future that got here early," and feature the tagline "American Express. Forward."
The new card features a "smart chip" that allows for secure online shopping. The chip works with a special card reader that connects to the user's PC. Starting in November, AmEx will also offer all cardmembers an "Online Wallet" service through the company's Web site, which stores credit information and transmits it securely to online merchants to complete transactions.
Bank of America this month kicked off a 12-month, 48-city tour tied to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney as part of its sponsorship of the U.S. team. Bank of America agencies Bozell, New York, and Temerlin McClain, Dallas, helped develop the tour, along with sports marketing shop CMA, Dallas, and promotions agency Group III Promotions, Chicago.
The bank has also signed as the U.S. Olympic team's sole bank sponsor through the 2004 Games and will be a sponsor of NBC's broadcasts of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, said Dockery Clark, national manager of Olym-pic sports and event marketing at Bank of America.
Bozell and Temerlin will create Olympic-theme advertising that will air on NBC's Olympic programming.
Bank of America, formed in 1998 by the merger of BankAmerica and NationsBank, will launch a first post-merger brand effort next year, said Ms. Clark. The large-scale campaign will be handled by Bozell and Temerlin, which won the consolidation review held late last year.
Mergers like the one that formed Bank of America are also driving advertising decibels to new levels in the financial services category, admitted Ms. Clark.
"The industry is consolidating. You're seeing an industry that's maturing," she said. "It's a more competitive marketplace and as the economy gets tougher,