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With more than 100 online brokerages crowding the market, Jerry Gramaglia has his hands full trying to keep E-Trade a step ahead of the others.

"The barriers to entry of this space have gotten fairly low, so there's a constant challenge to stay relevant," says Mr. Gramaglia, E-Trade's senior VP-sales, marketing and communication.

No stranger to competition, Mr. Gramaglia, 45, was in charge of Sprint Corp.'s $3 billion consumer division before he joined E-Trade in June 1998.

Under Mr. Gramaglia's direction, E-Trade spent close to $150 million marketing its service last year. "This isn't about Beanie Babies or books or CDs," he says. "When people speak of e-commerce, the real killer app is online investing."

Commission revenues generated from the online trading industry are expected to exceed $2 billion this quarter alone, he adds.

"Our advertising follows more of a retail model of driving people to the site," he explains. "Then once at the site, that's where the brand experience is created."

Mr. Gramaglia points out that E-Trade was one of the first online investing services to advertise on prime-time TV, including frequent spots on "Ally McBeal" and "ER" as well as spots surrounding the Super Bowl.

While it spends about 40% of its budget on traditional media, including an aggressive direct marketing effort, E-Trade also focuses heavily on online advertising through Modem Media-Poppe Tyson, New York.

This February, E-Trade awarded its account to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco. Gotham, New York, had handled.

"Our earlier advertising was more of a category sale. Now that the category has momentum of its own, the goal is to convince consumers that E-Trade is the brand they should choose," says Mr. Gramaglia.

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