OnMoney to debut $30 mil campaign

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Financial services portal OnMoney.com kicks off a $30 million campaign on Super Bowl Sunday, the same day the site goes live.

The portal from Ameritrade Corp. is one of the first to embark on what industry observers see as the next crucial strategy in the online brokerage battle: branding. This year will bring fewer get-rich-quick ads designed to win over first-time investors in favor of a greater emphasis on brand benefits and customer service.

"The real action [this] year and the year after is who's got the best customer relationships and where are they going with them," said Robert Duboff, director of national marketing for the North American operations of Ernst & Young.

PAPER MONSTER BATTLE

OnMoney.com debuts the campaign from DDB Worldwide, Chicago, with a spot in the game's third quarter. In the TV spot, a man battles a paper monster that evolves from the clutter on his desk and threatens to engulf his office. "Get your money connected at OnMoney.com" is the tagline.

The campaign introduces consumers to the site, (www.onmoney.

com) which has been in test since October. It features financial planning tools, business news and investment education materials. The site can also be used as an organizer that consolidates the user's banking, credit and financial planning accounts in one place.

LAUNCHING PAD

Super Sunday is a good launching pad because the game's wide audience matches OnMoney's position as a helper for investors at all levels, explained Jim Blumenfeld, senior VP-chief marketing officer.

"We're trying to cover the whole gamut. No matter how deep you want to drill down, we have the information," he said.

"We wanted to go after a broad base of users. All of us at some level have a frustration about managing money."

The campaign includes TV spots on cable and broadcast networks, radio spots and print ads in business and lifestyle magazines. Newspaper and radio ads will break Jan. 31, and magazine ads will follow by mid-February in publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Business Week, Sports Illustrated and Time.

Ameritrade hopes to attract the large population of baby boomers who are financially unprepared for retirement and may already be online, according to J. Joe Ricketts, Ameritrade's chairman-CEO. Customer service will be key to attracting and keeping them, say industry experts.

David Wanetick, senior analyst at Xceed Intelligence, a New York-based Web market researcher, counts at least 147 online brokerage providers-too many for what he said is essentially a commodity business.

TOUGH COMPETITION

"I think they're past the `sweet spot' in gaining new customers," Mr. Wanetick said. The "early adopters" of technology are already online, so the industry will now turn to refining products and consolidating.

"The competition is so stiff and so tough, we're not going to see more competition enter the category," agreed Ameritrade's Mr. Ricketts.

The next group of online investors will be more cautious, but more brand-loyal than the early adopters, said Stephen Cone, president of Fidelity Customer Marketing & Development. They'll be harder to sell on the service, but more likely than early adopters to stick with it, he believes.

"If you treat them well, they'll be loyal. . . . The message [to them] is reliability, reliability, reliability and superior customer service."

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