Schwab RFP: Portray Us As A ‘Hero Brand’

Some struggling companies look for a hero to save them. Discount brokerage Charles Schwab wants to become a hero itself, according to the brief for the advertiser’s $100 million-plus review.

The four shops competing for the business must develop a campaign that reinforces and extends the client’s “relentless ally” positioning, according to the brief. The financial-services category is open for a “hero brand” to emerge, the brief says, adding, “[We] believe we have the products, services and culture to be that brand.”

The client in August decided to split with Omnicom Group agency GSD&M in Austin, Texas. Client executives briefed the four finalists last week at its San Francisco headquarters, sources said. The shops are: Havas’ Euro RSCG in New York; Grey in New York (soon to be part of WPP Group); Publicis Groupe’s Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco; and independent Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore., said sources. (Wieden’s New York office handles U.S. Trust, a Schwab subsidiary, but sources said that office is not helping with the review.)

In July, the client turned to its chairman and founder, Charles Schwab, to return as CEO after its second-quarter earnings dropped 10 percent. Schwab replaced David Pottruck, who had the job for just 14 months. The company reports third-quarter earnings this week.

The brief asks agencies to provide a point of view on how to leverage Schwab himself in the marketing message. It divides the company’s consumers into three areas: core investors, active traders and investment managers. Agencies must present work that addresses core investors, whose increasing wealth can lead them to consult full-commission brokers, according to the brief.

The work must appeal to the tiny but impactful consumer segment known as “active traders,” who tend to “chase the best provider” of services in terms of cost and analysis, the brief says. Advertising must also maintain Schwab’s category leadership among investment advisers—those who serve the well-to-do and small businesses, according to the brief.

Executives at the agencies could not be reached.

Two spots that were created in-house and broke Oct. 6 show Schwab addressing the camera. In one, he says, “What’s in a name? More than I thought.” In the other, he says, “When your name’s on the door, that’s a commitment and a responsibility. Whether you’re a corner bakery or a company like ours with over 3 million clients. I’ll stake my name on that.”

Independent RPA in Santa Monica, Calif., handles media buying for Schwab.

Arnold Wechsler, CEO of financial-marketing consultancy Wechsler Ross & Partners in New York, said part of Schwab’s problem is that in the last few years it expanded beyond its do-it-yourself discount-investing services to providing financial advice as well, an arena in which it faces the likes of Fidelity, E*Trade and Merrill Lynch.

Schwab rep Glen Mathison disagreed. “We don’t see any reason why one firm can’t provide and tailor a wide range of services to a wide range of investors,” he said. “We’re offering the kinds of services that allow us to take advantage of an incredible opportunity out there.”

Work sessions between the agencies and the client are slated for Oct. 18 and 19. Final presentations will take place in San Francisco on Nov. 3 and 5, the brief says.