E*TRADE PITTING GOODBY, GOTHAM IN CREATIVE DUEL: ONLINE BROKER SHOPPING FOR AN AGENCY THAT CAN TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL

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Looking to stand out from the online trading crowd, E*Trade invited Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, to what seems to be a creative shoot-out.

Goodby, along with E*Trade incumbent Gotham, New York, has been asked to come up with ideas to take the Internet brand "to the next level," said Jerry Gramaglia, senior VP-marketing, sales and communications.

WEB SITE EFFORT

Gotham in September broke its biggest effort-backed by a $100 million marketing budget. The agency recently created a new flight of ads partly in support of a revamped Web site (www.etrade.com).

Some of those new spots aired in Super Bowl XXXIII pregame time slots on Fox Jan. 31.

TRADITIONAL SHOOT-OUT

This creative shoot-out involves offline advertising only. Modem Media-Poppe Tyson, Westport, Conn., handles the online account.

While the long-term status of the entire account is unclear, it is believed that Goodby would at least be added to the roster if E*Trade likes the work.

Executives at Gotham and Goodby couldn't be reached for comment at press time.

Mr. Gramaglia joined E*Trade last year after leaving Sprint Corp., where he was VP-marketing. In the past few months, a handful of agencies was said to be actively courting the business.

E*Trade's competitors include Ameritrade, DLJ Direct, Suretrade and Charles Schwab & Co.

CROWDED CATEGORY

As online brokers boost their ad budgets, the category is becoming increasingly crowded. Some executives at those companies have begun planning ways to differentiate themselves, including changing agencies and creating edgier work.

Some agency changes include DLJ Direct moving its $30 million account from Romann Group to Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, both New York, in November. Schwab

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