financial services

E*Trade's Baby Brings Friends To Super Bowl

  • by January 23, 2009
Etrade Baby E*Trade Financial's popular talking baby will not only return to the Super Bowl this year, he's coming back with friends--baby pals as seen in commercial outtakes as well as adult buddies through a new Facebook page and Twitter followers.

The baby's social media push so far focuses on getting folks to watch those outtakes, which are also featured on E*Trade's four-year-old branded YouTube channel

The purpose of all this online activity, according to the online brokerage firm's official announcement, is clear: build "anticipation for the airing of the commercial ... to maximize the Super Bowl investment and appeal to a wide audience before and after the game."

That investment for a single 30-second Super Bowl is estimated at $3 million, but E*Trade says the cost is worth it--the company reported a 32% increase in newly opened and funded brokerage accounts in the week following the debut of the first two talking baby spots last year, compared to the week following the 2007 game when two non-baby E*Trade spots ran. And positive online buzz following the game a year ago helped contribute to E*Trade's expanded use of social media pre-game this year.



The Nielsen Company, in its "Guide to Super Bowl XLIII" released Friday, noted that Pepsi's Justin Timberlake commercial became last year's most viewed Super Bowl ad on YouTube precisely because of Pepsi's own pre-game marketing push. The two E*Trade talking baby spots ranked third and fourth in YouTube hits in 2008, behind a Pepsi SoBe ad with Naomi Campbell. Nielsen also said that E*Trade was the second-most-discussed advertiser online the day of and day after last year's game, again trailing the Timberlake spot.

E*Trade itself reported more than 5 million total online ad viewings and 5 million searches for its ads following the 2008 game. And social media tracker Collective Intellect said E*Trade's spots produced the most positive social media sentiment of any Super Bowl ads.

While E*Trade's YouTube page on Friday was touting two commercials to premiere on Super Bowl Sunday, a company spokesperson said the firm had only committed to one spot during this year's game, and that another may air during pre- or post-game coverage.

In addition to the Super Bowl and other TV, the 2009 "Talking Baby" campaign will also include ads in newspapers, online and movie theaters. The campaign was created by WPP's Grey New York, with media planning from Publicis' Spark Communications.

Leading up to and running beyond the spot's debut during the first half of the big game, Facebook ads will direct users to the fan page, with other banners and video-pointing buttons running on YouTube, Google, MSN, and Yahoo. E*Trade is also running sponsored search advertising.

Once new commercial (or two) goes public, E*Trade will invite online visitors to post the ad or ads on their own Facebook, Twitter, Digg and personal home pages.

Print ads featuring the talking baby will appear in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today.

In past commercials, E*Trade's talking baby has shown, by example, how easy it is for anyone to take control of their own finances by trading online rather than relying on traditional brokers and banks.

One thing the baby will not talk about on-air is E*Trade's own condition in the current economy. On Tuesday, five days before what is arguably its biggest day of the year--Super Bowl Sunday--E*Trade will report its fourth-quarter and year-end 2008 financial results. Hit hard by problems in the mortgage industry, E*Trade in the third quarter had reported revenue down 21%, a tripling of its loan loss provision, and a loss of 60 cents a share excluding one-off items.

As BusinessWeek's Maria Bartiromo pointed out at the time, "to many, the biggest surprise was that the firm was actually in the mortgage business." So the renewed Super Bowl commitment, in the words of E*Trade Chief Marketing Officer Nicholas A. Utton, also "signifies the strength of E*Trade's core business"--online brokerage accounts. "In this uncertain economic climate," he said in a statement, "reinforcing the strength of our brand and value proposition is critical."

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