Baby Not On Board: Grey, E*Trade Part Company

Kiss that baby goodbye. Grey Advertising and E*Trade are parting ways.

The WPP shop had been the discount broker’s ad agency for six years and created one of the most recognizable and popular ad campaigns during that time. It featured the iconic "E*Trade Baby," who figured out a way to trade almost any time and anywhere.   

Neither the client or the agency officially confirmed the news, but Grey staffers received a memo today from Grey New York President and CCO Tor Myhren and COO Michael Houston. “After a spectacularly successful six-year run, we are resigning the E*Trade Financial account,” they wrote.

Grey’s resignation comes in the wake of senior management shifts at E*Trade, including a new CEO in January and the departure soon after of CMO Nick Utton, who had been a key corporate advocate of Grey and the Baby campaign.

Despite the success of the campaign, E*Trade was rocked by management instability throughout the agency’s tenure. It has appointed and replaced seven CEOs since 2007. Plus, it has struggled financially in recent years and considered putting itself on the sales block two years ago during a strategic review.

The company spent nearly $250 million on ads in 2012, according to Kantar, but has plans to sharply reduce that amount in the next couple of years.

“We will always look back on this relationship as one of the best and most famously effective in Grey's history,” Myhren and Houston wrote in their memo. “Let us never forget this was the brand and the work that began our turnaround.”

The campaign won numerous awards, including Effies, One Show, London International, AICP and D&AD honors. E*Trade Baby ads also appeared in six Super Bowl telecasts, frequently generating high scores in consumer polls by USA Today, CBS, Time and other publications.

No word yet if E*Trade has begun a review to replace Grey. The company didn’t immediately respond to queries for comment.  

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3 comments about "Baby Not On Board: Grey, E*Trade Part Company".
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  1. PJ Lehrer from NYU, June 28, 2013 at 8:56 a.m.

    So let me get this straight. The campaign has been “successful” but the company is struggling financially? That doesn’t sound like a successful campaign to me, and it’s about time someone at E*Trade noticed.

    Here’s a blog I wrote about the topic back in February 2011.
    http://pjlehrer.blogspot.com/2011/02/is-it-time-to-ditch-etrade-baby.html#comment-form

  2. Ron Friedman from Abbott, June 28, 2013 at 11:39 a.m.

    I have to echo PJ Lehrer's sentiment, though I haven't read his article and would need to understand the reasons why E*Trade has struggled.

    It's great to be successful when measured by one's market peers and the accolades given--as in the case of the E*Trade baby campagin--but advertisers serve their clients so if the campaign succeeds ONLY in an artistic or entertaining way but NOT by increasing their client's revenues, market share, consumer interaction then how in the heck can it be considered a "successful" campaign?

    On the other hand a company that may be having serious management issues may not be in the best position to leverage a great ad campaign, so it would not be the sole fault of the advertiser if the business tanked or sales numbers declined.

    Imagine if Apple's 1984 commercial hit but the company was only able to crank out 3,000 computers that first year. Blame the agency or blame the company?

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, June 28, 2013 at 6:02 p.m.

    Advertising brings customers to the store (or so to speak). It is up to the advertiser to sell the product/service and keep the customer as well as run a well oiled business. What this says is that Grey did its job and who knows if the client were getting paid timely or paying the media timely or being respectful to the media.

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