Consumers want in on the good times -- online accounts rose to 9.74 million in the second quarter, up 17.7% from the first quarter, according to U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray -- and the online companies need to advertise offline to bring customers online, says Robert Duboff, director of national marketing for the North American operations of Ernst & Young LLP.
An analysis by Bankboston Robertson Stephens puts ad spending by online brokerages at $525 million this year, up 91% from 1998. Some 130 firms now offer online brokerage services, and more -- including Merrill Lynch & Co., Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. and PaineWebber Group -- are planning to enter the ring.
With such competition on the way, no one can afford to keep quiet. Discover Brokerage is doubling its advertising in all channels from 1998 to $100 million this year, Ameritrade is spending at the rate of $200 million, DLJ Direct at $65 million and E*Trade at more than $150 million.
AD SPENDING SURGES
Investment brokers' overall spending in 1998 was up only 5.3% to $599.1 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting. But such growth is taking a backseat to January-May 1999 growth of 33.2% over the same period in 1998. A growing portion of that five-month total of $359.1 million is for online services.
The wave of advertising even worries Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt, who this spring complained that online brokerage ads made investing look like winning the lottery.
Expenses are high, but the potential payoff could be as high as $1.1 trillion, according to Gomez Advisors, basing its estimate on 16.28 million new investors poised to go online, each bearing about 2.2 accounts valued around $35,000 each. Those potential investors are both traditional investors moving online and individuals who match the profile of online investors.
Advertising tends to have a multiplier effect, says Ernst & Young's Mr. Duboff. As more companies advertise, competitors worry about losing share of voice, so they too must advertise. "If you can't be the first, you want to be the