You probably can't read a financial newspaper, watch a sports show, or surf the internet without seeing the new TDAmeritrade ads with Sam Waterston in them. As I wrote a few weeks back in Sam I Am TD Ameritrade, I think it is a great idea that they kept Sam Waterston on as the spokesperson. However, Sam needs an Uncle to spring him from the ads he is now stuck in.
In the past, Sam was the trustworthy person who told it to you straight on how TD Waterhouse could help self-directed investors. The ads had a similar theme which was see direct investor A and how he/she conducts their lives and also invests on their own without the help of high priced brokers. Sam W. was the voice in the ads that confidently told you that this was true. Sure, they had a few missteps (the power-tool promo for one), but for the most part they stayed consistent. Now with their agency, they seemed to have lost their way.
The ads today make a weak link between why people invest independently with the independence that spawned the United States. Using the slogan, the Independent Spirit, they wrap themselves around American imagery and some of the founding fathers (Jefferson, Franklin, and I'm not sure who the third guy is - Adams?); pushing Mr. Waterston to the background. Sam deserves better as does this ad campaign.
After spending 5 years marketing to the same people and researching their needs, the same drive that caused the American Revolution, is, surprise, not the same reason why people invest on their own. It has to do with how they feel about money and the drive to see their money grow on their own. It is about beating odds and proving that you are better than the next person - more of the American Competitive Spirit. It is about how these people feel about money; yes, true-believers people have feelings about their money. The one problem with this theory is that as the investor grows and wins, they often hand the money back over to a full service broker. So, the trick is not only identifying these people but hitting the correct timing in the life-cycle.
TDAmeritrade needs to put these direct investors back into the ads so they can explain how they feel about money and ditch the link with the Spirit of 76. Sometimes, switching out a well developed, old strategy is not always the best course of action when you are a newly merged company and decided to keep the well-known spokesperson of one of the old brands in addition to a piece of the name. Unfortunately, the ads that are being blasted now really miss the mark. Sam needs a marketing revolution.