Tech

E-Trade will return to the Super Bowl after hot year for retail investing

Key Points
  • E-Trade will run a Super Bowl ad next month after an ultra-hot year for retail investor activity. 
  • The online broker, which was acquired by Morgan Stanley last year, has been known for its humorous Super Bowl spots throughout the years.
  • The company last advertised during the Super Bowl in 2018. 
Still from E-Trade's teaser for its Super Bowl spot
E-Trade

E-Trade will run a Super Bowl ad next month following a hot year for retail investor activity. 

The online broker, which was acquired by Morgan Stanley last year, has been known for its humorous Super Bowl spots throughout the years. The brand used a deep-talking baby pitchman for its TV commercials for years before "retiring" the baby in 2014. It last advertised during the Super Bowl in 2018

The teaser for the new spot, created with ad agency Interpublic Group of Cos.' MullenLowe, doesn't include a baby. But the short video does feature a young boy exercising as "You're The Best," a song known from "The Karate Kid" movie, plays. The words "Kick your finances into shape" appear on the screen across the teaser. Though many brands opt to release their spots on social media ahead of the game, E-Trade's won't be shown publicly until game day. 

It comes after E-Trade rode the huge year for retail investor engagement and saw high levels of new-to-market investors. Morgan Stanley said in its fourth-quarter earnings announcement last week that E-Trade had a "remarkable year in 2020, setting new records across all material metrics," and that the "unique backdrop" dramatically accelerated digital adoption and increased levels of engagement. E-Trade had seen record trading in the second quarter amid a broader retail trading boom.

Alice Milligan, E-Trade's managing director of marketing and digital, said the company relied on customer research and dialogue to figure out how to approach an ad in a year like this. She said E-Trade determined people had gone through numerous stages of emotion over the past year and were looking for some optimism and humor. 

"One resounding thing we heard from investors and from customers and prospects is that they really want to feel in control of their lives and their finances, and many of us have felt quite a bit out of control for a long time," Milligan said. "It's time for people to start to feel a little bit better and start to feel in control. … We're hoping the ad resonates in that way."

The Super Bowl will have an atypical advertiser lineup this year, with mainstays like Coke, Pepsi and Budweiser declining to buy traditional ad time in the game. Meanwhile, a slew of new advertisers from Fiverr to Mercari are stepping in after a stay-at-home year that propelled their businesses.

For E-Trade, the value of a Super Bowl ad is still strong. 

"From a brand perspective, I think the Super Bowl represents a huge opportunity to get the word out about a company's brand to consumers that are most relevant for that brand," Milligan said. For E-Trade, many of those consumers are investors who feel like they could be doing better financially. 

E-Trade's chief marketing officer, Andrea Zaretsky, added that the majority of the emerging investors, traders and consumers the company wants to reach will be watching. But the game spot itself is just one piece of the strategy. The brand plans to do a "full surround sound approach" before the game, during the game on game day, and after the game, including a targeted digital strategy. 

The Covid pandemic changed the production of the shoot, which is typically a major undertaking with lots of hands. Zaretsky said the crew onsite filming the ad was a lot leaner, with a "very, very tight group." But the company opted to set up a video feed of the shoot for the first time.  

"Everyone felt like they were there," she said. "More people felt like they were able [to be there] for the journey. I think the result was, in some ways, better." 

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