It may be time to kiss the E-Trade baby goodbye

The online brokerage is struggling despite the clever and extremely popular ads. A pink slip could be coming as costs get cut.

By Jonathan Berr Jul 8, 2013 2:03PM
Video still of the new ETrade baby commercial 'Runaway Baby' (© etrade via YouTube)Having joined the pantheon of America's most well-known brand mascots such as Tony the Tiger and Ronald McDonald in just five short years, the E-Trade baby may not be making wisecracks on TV much longer.

According to Advertising Age, E-Trade (ETFC) recently dropped Grey, its longtime ad agency, and recently replaced the chief marketing officer who championed the campaign. Ad Age said, "If history is any lesson, the baby's days are numbered."

E-Trade told the publication it hasn't yet decided whether it will part ways with the baby. But unfortunately for E-Trade, many consumers who laugh at the baby's antics aren't signing up with the fourth-largest online brokerage service these days.

E-Trade has been struggling for years. In January, it named former Barclays (BCS) chief operating officer Paul Idzik as its seventh CEO since 2007. Shares have soared by more than 47% this year as Wall Street has grown confident that Idzik's turnaround efforts might work. However, many skeptics remain, especially since E-Trade's largest shareholder, Citadel, liquidated its position earlier this year.

During the first quarter, E-Trade eked out a profit of $35 million, or 12 cents per share. While that was a 78% decline compared with the first quarter a year ago, it was an improvement over the $186.1 million fourth-quarter loss. And it ended the most recent quarter with an all-time high of $37 billion in assets. How the talking baby fits into the mix here is tough to say.

"The campaign has morphed over the years, moving from one that sought to assuage investor fear in 2008 to one that was more supportive during the rough economy after 2009," according to Ad Age.

E-Trade chief marketing officer Liza Landsman told Ad Age the campaign "could live on through some, but not all, mediums." She wasn't more specific, which will likely sadden the talking baby's fans.

Idzik is in cost-cutting mode. Not surprisingly, he wants to pare $30 million from E-Trade's marketing budget. That plan entails some risk because rivals such as TD Ameritrade (AMTD) continue to advertise. E-Trade spent $139.5 million last year on "'advertising and marketing development' in 2012," well under the $248 million TD Ameritrade spent on advertising, Ad Age noted.

The E-Trade baby had a great run while it lasted, but all things -- including iconic ad campaigns -- come to an end.

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

More on moneyNOW

Jul 8, 2013 3:21PM
One of the funniest lines in advertsing history is "Apparently, riding the dog like it's a small horse is FROWNED UPON... IN THIS ESTABLISHMENT!" Sorry to see the baby go, but he was cute while it lasted.
Jul 8, 2013 2:32PM
Jul 8, 2013 2:45PM
Jul 8, 2013 4:39PM
here i was hoping Flo from Progressive would be the next one to get the ax
Jul 8, 2013 3:27PM

The hilarious ads don't make up for the fact that Etrades prices and fees are over the top.

Jul 8, 2013 3:53PM
I am going to miss the little guy.  love that commercial.
Jul 8, 2013 4:06PM
Oh no, the best commercial on TV!  I'll miss the babies.
Jul 8, 2013 3:29PM

Hey Ameritrade, pick up the baby and run with it...literally!! 

It will make you a house hold name!!!


I mean it.

I can think of a hundred Ad spots right now.  LOL

Jul 8, 2013 4:21PM

A few years ago I owned some GE stock I had purchased through E-Trade.  The market was doing poorly and I did not wish to buy or sell.  I intended to hold until I felt comfortable with the market.

E-Trade liquidated my shares  (for fees) although I made no transactions.  E-Trade is a scam.  Read the fine print.  They will screw you, because they can.


Jul 8, 2013 4:30PM
does the baby get unemployment compensation?
Jul 8, 2013 3:17PM
I understand the "grabbing the attention of the viewer" aspect of marketing but is a baby really the appropriate spokesperson for a company that asks for the trust of a large portion of your financial savings?
Jul 8, 2013 3:53PM
E-Trade started out really good. Had a good concept and business plan. Then... like every other bank, financial institution, airline, and government or political agenda, they started raising prices to push the limits of what the market will bear to boost profits. That is OK as long as there is an equal or better corresponding increase in services. Then here come the fees. It's not a price increase but if you want more then they charge you for it or they just want a quick and easy way to increase income. A cute baby ad doesn't cover up the actual business plan and customer costs. They need to go back to good service, low no fee prices, lots of good customer related features on their website, and a truly knowledgeable support staff, and advisory staff. A low cost business structure works on volume and E-Trade forgot that. The baby ads would truly work if they went back to that.
Jul 8, 2013 4:03PM
they changed the babyby a while back and it was noticeable.The first one was perfect.
Jul 8, 2013 2:45PM
They need "Mayhem" from the Allstate commercials... a shoddy untrustworthy Gen Y guy complete with black eye and bandages. E-Trade, the preferred nation undermining trade service for unethical bounders and crooks.
Jul 8, 2013 4:35PM
Jul 8, 2013 4:59PM

Back in the day, businesses like these used to give good and realistic advise, excellent and honest customer service and on the business aspect they would last a long time making money for themselves and their customers, and everyone had a piece of the pie. honestly now they have these young idiots for executives that probably received in college a passing "D" grade to run the companies with unrealistic goals and expectations, charge for everything with outrages fees because of profit. meanwhile if "their" pockets don't profit, they put the blame on the economy, the market, etc. Before good companies used to last because of excellent customer service, now they rely on slamming (telemarketing term, for lying and deceiving their customers with false expectations) and once they have your money, kiss it good-by. 

I feel sorry for the baby, the only cute thing the commercial had going.

Jul 8, 2013 4:21PM
Absurd, of course but it was worth watching that adorable little guy.  I am in awe how they make his/her talking so real!  Lighten up, it's only a commercial.
Jul 8, 2013 4:21PM
Daggone it! I love that little baby commercial! I don't want him to go!!
Jul 8, 2013 4:07PM
Ever since Capital One bought ING Sharebuilder  I've switched to Etrade.  I see many other in line to do the same.
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