As reported by Stuart Elliot in the NY Times in an article called Actor Gets an Encore, Sam Waterston has been kept on as the spokesperson for the newly combined TD Waterhouse, Ameritrade company now known as TD AMERITRADE. According to the article, the new TD AMERITRADE carries the theme, "The independent spirit, expressed in headlines such as "Independence is the spirit that drives America's most successful investors." The double meaning is meant to evoke the do-it-yourself approach of current and potential TD Ameritrade customers. OK, a couple of observations from an insider and someone that enjoyed competing with both Ameritrade and TD.
Law and Order Link - Why Is It Important?
Simple. Sam Waterston is trustworthy to people. He is the voice of reason for TDAmeritrade and when he speaks people listen to what he has to say. What I always found interesting is that people believe the person that Sam plays on Law and Order is believable and trust worthy. That was not meant as a shot at Mr. Waterston because I don't know him personally, but like everyone else I have a valid opinion on the person he plays. TDAmeritrade kept the best aspect of TD's old marketing campaigns and now according to the article, will blow out about $150 million next year on marketing with Sam at the helm.
The Do-It-Yourself Angle Should Have Stayed With The Waterhouse Name
Keeping Sam is a good idea, the do-it-yourself positioning is really, really tired and it leads to very silly ads. Yes silly. About 2 years ago, TD Waterhouse ran a campaign that was based on the do-it-yourself investor and when you opened a new account you got, you guessed it true-believers, a brand spanking new power drill. I never laughed so hard in my life at an incentive and couldn't resist calling up my counter part at TD to needle him. They even tested the offer on a Yahoo Finance Quotes Results Button.
Look there is nothing wrong with featuring people investing on their own, in fact that is similar to the old Harrisdirect positioning of the self-directed investor and similar to Schwab's campaign. It is just the positioning as a do-it-yourself, Home Depot type investor leads to a very sad state.
Why Do Agencies Do That?
Ok, so Sam is good and do-it-yourself is bad, but what I believed really affected their online campaigns was the lack of ability by their creative agency to use the ENTIRE space in the browser. I always pushed my agency to use bigger fonts and more space to make the page easier to read on say people with 30+ eyes. Really, what does the ugly green border do for signing up new accounts when you squeeze in a complicated product like X-ray? Bigger fonts, less space for the people that actually resonate with Sam Waterston makes some sense, no?
TDWaterhouse was a worthy competitor, but that was mostly due to their huge online spend and spokesperson. For almost three years, I had my own pseudo spokesperson that had a cult following online and coincidentally helped me generate a ton of campaigns. That story, The Life and Times of Elsie Lee is a story for another week.