Sixteen days after killing their iconic baby campaign, E-Trade revealed its replacement April 5 and 6 during the NCAA Final Four telecast.
They shouldn't have bothered.
Killing the baby
At five years old, the baby wasn't exactly precocious. And being a ripoff of the 1989 hit movie "Look Who's Talking," the campaign wasn't exactly the pinnacle of creative originality. But it did have three things going for it.
First, people just lo-o-ove to look at babies.
Second, it did what many advertising campaigns, such as Geico's, do: Use an unconventional video image as a vehicle for audio that spouts off a whole laundry list of conventional, boring sales points.
And third. consumers liked it. They really liked it. As Liza Landsman, the E-Trade CMO in charge of the infanticide, told Advertising Age, "When I joined last summer, everyone told me they loved the baby...The baby is iconic; it's fantastic advertising. At the moment it landed on the scene, it captured something that was important at the time."
But the baby had problems, said Landsman. The campaign showed that "online investing is so easy a baby can do it. What has happened over time is the baby ate the brand. It didn't make sense for us to pretend investing was easy. Hence the baby went into retirement." One possible reason for the baby's forced retirement she didn't mention was that the campaign was created before her tenure.
But at least the E-Trade baby was permitted a more graceful exit than those babies whose little bodies ended up inside furnaces throughout the United Kingdom, as fuel to heat National Health Service hospitals.
E as in 'eplieptic'
The new campaign's official rationale is that "There has been change in the space, with customers choosing self-directed platforms over brokerage firms," according to Landsman.
This "new creative campaign" tightens the target audience to youngish urban professionals looking for retirement accounts and talks to them about online tools for managing their E-Trade investments.
Landsman says it's also "very funny and irreverent."
But it's neither.
The campaign line is, "Are you Type E?" And to look at the first commercial that broke this past weekend, you'd think that the "E" stands not for "E-Trade," but for "epileptic."
Because in it, professional-looking men and women writhe spastically across the screen while singing about how they know about IRAs and have a lock on equities, with the musical hook being, "That's why I'm Type E."
A second commercial, later this month, will feature Kevin Spacey tapping people on the shoulder to tell them they're Type E's who should be investing with E-Trade.
All this will be supported by a print campaign. Since print is a static medium, the Type E yuppies in it will all be standing still, not having seizures. The headlines will be "I'M TYPE E," the copy that crams the page will all be upper case, and there'll be short, catchy, funny, irreverent subheads like "I USED THE RETIREMENT PLANNING CALCULATOR. NOW I KNOW 'WHEN' I'M GOING TO RETIRE, NOT 'IF.' DID SOMEBODY SAY SCUBA DIVING?" [capitalization in the original]
The print campaign is the television campaign stripped of its song and dance. The television campaign, with its song and dance, is one more example of the old advertising adage, "When you have nothing to say, say it with music."