Quirky TV ads have made E*Trade Financial famous but have done little to help pitch its functional appeal to investors. Can the online brokerage now catch up to its bigger rivals?
E*Trade Financial (ETFC) may boast some of the most popular advertisements on TV, but the company still can’t make a profit. Hobbled by bad loans that blew up in the financial crisis, it’s stuck at fourth place in the highly competitive online brokerage industry.
E*Trade executives are thus trying a new strategy: While not entirely abandoning their talking baby campaign, they’re spending more than half of an increased ad budget on messages without the stock-trading infant. The talking baby ads, which began airing during the 2008 Super Bowl, have been a hit with TV viewers. Nielsen (NLSN) said on Feb. 9 that an ad featuring the E*Trade baby with a sneezing cat was the third most-liked commercial during the 2011 Super Bowl, watched by a record 111 million people. Because of the baby, “we have much higher brand recognition vs. the competition,” says Nicholas Utton, E*Trade’s chief marketing officer.