TD Waterhouse takes aim at Merrill Lynch and Schwab

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TD Waterhouse breaks in a new spokesman, a new positioning and increased spending in its latest ad campaign, breaking today.

The online broker's new ads, featuring NBC's "Law & Order" actor Sam Waterston, take direct aim at rivals Merrill Lynch & Co. and Charles Schwab Co. as part of an effort to attack full-service brokerages. The new spots focus on product offerings, such as advice and research, while also pushing the broker's lower fees as the antidote to overpriced, underserviced brokerage accounts.

"It's still a brand-building campaign, but it puts a fine point on that brand," said Chief Marketing Officer Janet Hawkins.

The choice of Mr. Waterston as pitchman was helped by his strong scores in market research, said Steve Crane, president and creative director of Cosette Post, New York. The actor got high marks in likability and credibility well beyond any other spokesperson tested, he said.

"It was just all positives, the guy just tested great," Mr. Crane said.

significant increase

The nearly $50 million budget is a significant increase from last year's effort, Ms. Hawkins said. It includes national cable and print, online ads and local TV, print and radio.

"The trends are in our favor," Ms. Hawkins said. With the improvement in the stock markets, investors are re-examining their portfolios' performance and often find their broker lacking, she said, making now a good time for TD Waterhouse to approach them with a better offer.

Brokerages large and small are re-emerging after three years of reduced spending and low profiles following both the market downturn and a spate of trading scandals and investigations. In the last three months alone, marketers ranging from Smith Barney to A.G. Edwards have all launched new efforts.

Just last month, Ameritrade Holdings Corp. said it planned to spend up to $68 million on its largest effort in years. That follows the launch in September of Smith Barney's campaign-a rebranding of the Citigroup unit after settling charges of improprieties against its analysts-and A.G. Edwards' first nationwide effort from new agency Carmichael Lynch. And campaigns are expected soon from E-Trade Financial, which hired Omnicom Group's Martin Williams, Minneapolis, in September, and Edward Jones, which is now in the final stages of a review.

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