E*Trade Searches for New Agency

Online financial services firm E*Trade Group said Thursday it was looking for a new agency of record for its estimated $35 million account, dropping longtime agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which declined to participate in the review process.

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company, which has worked with Goodby since 1999, had been one of the more aggressive advertisers of the dot-com era, acting as sponsor of the halftime events at two Super Bowls. Its memorable spots featured chimpanzees in various scenarios, riding a horse in one and dancing in another. After declining to advertise in this year’s Super Bowl, E*Trade is continuing the shift in its marketing focus, to concentrate on direct response-oriented efforts.

“We’ve been very successful at building our brand and our customer base,” said Pam Kramer, chief marketing officer at E*Trade Group. “Now it’s about connecting with consumers in a more targeted way.”

The search for a new agency to support these new goals comes as the company settles in after an abrupt change in management. In late January, the company’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Christos Cotsakos, resigned, and was succeeded by President and COO Mitchell Caplan. The company had long been dogged by questions about its corporate governance and criticism of Cotsakos’ lavish pay package, which amounted to $60 million in 2001 and $45 million in 2002.

According to published reports, this is the second review process E*Trade has begun in less than a year. AdWeek quotes sources as saying a review, conducted in-house, was begun in late 2002, with Interpublic’s Deutsch LA and Havas’ Black Rocket Euro RSCG asked to participate. That effort was apparently dropped. This time, agency search consulting firm, Search Resources International, is handling the review process.

“We are looking for creative that can be leveraged across multiple communications disciplines,” said Kramer. “We want a partner that understands the innovation and unique value we have to offer in investing, banking and lending.”

E*Trade’s most successful marketing effort as of late has probably been on the PR front, when it launched a new “portable mortgage” product which allows people to transfer the terms of their current mortgage to a new residence, rather than pay off the original loan and apply for a new one at a potentially higher interest rate.

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