In 2000, E-Trade and Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners stood out in the "Dot-Com Bowl" by making fun of themselves and everyone else on the ad roster for blowing $2 million bucks so quickly ("Wasting $2 Million").
In 2001, after the dot-com bust, they could have skipped a Super Bowl, chastened, or offered a more straightforward pitch about wise investing. Instead they embraced the fallout to brilliant effect -- if none too kindly to Pets.com, which just a year earlier was running the charming Super Bowl spot "Please Don't Go."
New York Times ad columnist Stuart Elliott called the result the "most effective, hardest working spot of the game -- and also the most surprising":
The commercial brought back a monkey character the company used in a spot last year to slyly reference the fact that E*Trade was one of only three dot-com advertisers to return from Super Bowl XXXIV, making the point that consumers ought to ''invest wisely.''
The commercial piled one surprise atop another: inside jokes about unlikely Web addresses (pimentoloaf.com, tieClasp.com); a wink at the demise of the sock puppet character that appeared in ads for a Super Bowl XXXIV advertiser, Pets.com, now defunct; homage to a famous 1971 public service commercial with a crying Indian; and salutes to ''Planet of the Apes'' and the so-called spaghetti Westerns of Clint Eastwood. Four Gomers, er, stars.
The ad ranked seventh on USA Today's annual Ad Meter, and earned four stars from Ad Age ad critic Bob Garfield:
One of the few dot-coms to break through in last year's dot-fiasco was E-Trade, with a spot featuring a chimpanzee dancing to La Cucaracha next to two ultradweebs in a New Jersey garage. The message: "Well, we just wasted two million bucks. What are you doing with your money?" And while nearly all of last year's dot-com advertisers have been throttled in the marketplace, E-Trade-and the chimpanzee-survived.
So here was the chimp again, mounted on horseback, grimly surveying the wreckage of the e-economy. In a brilliant parody of the 1973 anti-pollution Ad Council spot, the chimpanzee apes Iron Eyes Cody, a tear of regret rolling down his furry cheek. "Invest wisely," the onscreen message says. Hi-lar-i-ous.
E-Trade's other ad in the 2001 game, "Security Guard Fantasy," scored even higher on the Ad Meter but is largely forgotten while "Ghost Town" is widely remembered.
AGENCY: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners