Web Street founders hark back to 1975

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Web Street Securities will use its co-founders' childhoods as material in a campaign for its online brokerage that breaks this week.

Ads from TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, will feature versions of Web Street's co-chairmen, brothers Joseph and Avi Fox, as children circa 1975. Each spot shows a situation that relates to Web Street's services and features. The effort, estimated at $30 million to $40 million, includes TV, print and online marketing.

Web Street (webstreet.com) wants to personalize the company's focus on customer service in a field where competitors are feverishly collecting customers with glitzy celebrity-laden ads, said Co-chairman and President Avi Fox.

CUSTOMER CARE

"We need to get people excited about working with Web Street, to get people to understand our culture," he said. "We want people to understand exactly who they are doing business with. . . . and how you'll be treated if you do business with this company."

The Deerfield, Ill.-based company is much smaller than leading competitors such as E*Trade Securities and Charles Schwab & Co., which respectively boast 1.6 million accounts and $28 billion in assets, and 3 million accounts and $264 billion in assets.

But Web Street has expanded aggressively since last year. It increased its assets under management by 54% to $800 million in the fourth quarter, and added 14,200 new accounts, bringing its total to 87,500. The company, which launched in 1996, also went public Nov. 17 and raised $43 million to fund its expansion plans.

HELP NEVER SLEEPS

The new spots -- set to the music of Peter Frampton and Blue Oyster Cult -- aim straight at the target 30-year-old and 40-year-old investors who make up the bulk of online brokerage customers, Mr. Fox said.

In one spot, a child actor portrays Joseph Fox as he plays Spin the Bottle with three girls in the family's basement while his brother Avi keeps lookout. "Minimize risk, maximize gain," the title card reads. In another spot, a friend wakes the brothers to come to the aid of another friend stranded on a boat after losing his oars. "Help never sleeps," says the title card, touting Web Street's 24-hour customer service. All spots are tagged "Investing with ambition."

The initial media plan includes spots on CNNfn and CNBC cable networks and local spot buys in major markets and print in newspapers including USA Today and The New York Times. Web Street will expand its media buy during the second quarter to include online marketing, magazine ads and prime-time network buys, Mr. Fox said.

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