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Ameritrade Corp.'s tagline, "Believe in yourself," proved a good mantra for the last year.

The discount broker attacked the online market with increased ad spending and a humorous ad campaign from OgilvyOne, Chicago.

The campaign mounted a challenge to the top two online brokerage powerhouses, Charles Schwab & Co. and E*Trade. Ameritrade claims it opened 319,000 new accounts during the quarter ended March 31, more than it booked the previous fiscal year. According to an analysis by U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, Ameritrade had grown to 992,000 accounts with $38.9 billion in assets by the end of the first quarter of 2000, up from 428,000 accounts and $19.5 billion the same time in 1999.

Anne Nelson, 46, VP-marketing and communications for Ameritrade, says she relied on a strategy that included constantly upgrading the company's online systems and customer service support as well as an integrated marketing program.

The marketing program used mass TV advertising to build brand awareness and drive Web surfers to the site and added a layer of targeted print, Internet, direct marketing and promotions.

Perhaps its biggest marketing weapon was the 1999 TV commercial featuring its wild-haired slacker hero, Stuart, who taught his boss how to "light this candle" with his Ameritrade account. The spot became so popular it even found its way into Bill Clinton's parody video for the White House correspondents' dinner.

Stuart marches on this year as Ameritrade has more than tripled its spending to $200 million during this fiscal year.

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