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Using the fast-growing “tennis for babies, but for adults” as a metaphor for the daunting world of securities trading, E*Trade’s 30-second Super Bowl 58 spot—airing during the second quarter—has its baby and a friend playing doubles against two large and unusually aggressive adults. Despite mocking it as “Wiffle tennis,” the babies recoil as the adults aim high-speed serves at their heads while yelling, “PICKLE!”
Since the baby made its debut in 2008 and is basically a well-preserved 16-year-old, he responds with heckling befitting his years: Telling his opponent that he should work on saving for “college, since you like to get schooled.” Voiced by the ad’s director, Randy Krallman of Smuggler—who also directed E*Trade’s last two Super Bowl ads—the baby and his partner not only overcome their full-grown rivals, but offers them a parting quip at the pickleball net:
“Thanks for coming to our clinic, first one’s free.”
It’s the first Super Bowl ad for 72andSunny’s New York office and its new leadership team. It took over for longtime E*Trade agency MullenLowe and turned a pitch from late 2023 into a metaphor for taking control of your financial future.
“We just had to let the creative process play out a bit, and unless you were living under a rock, you couldn’t not hear about pickleball,” said Matt Murphy, global chief creative officer at 72andSunny “It just felt really very timely to do a story, and the visual contrast between these overzealous adults playing against babies was just like, ‘OK, let’s have fun with this.’”
For E*Trade, which was purchased by Morgan Stanley in 2020 and added to its wealth management business, a more serious mission belies the ad’s tone. According to a 2024 first-quarter survey of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management’s own investors, their top financial resolution for 2024 was to learn more about investing, trading and markets. Among those investors, 73% feel that they could be doing better, while 57% feel that financial jargon hinders their ability to invest on their own.
While its creative partners have changed and its Super Bowl ads’ objectives have shifted since the baby’s debut in 2008, this year’s objective is clear: Introduce more of the Super Bowl’s roughly 100 million viewers to E*Trade and bring them into the Morgan Stanley Wealth Management ecosystem “regardless of where they are in their financial journey. In pickleball terms: Get would-be investors in the game.”
“Investing in the market always comes with headwinds and tailwinds—for 2024, our strategists predict a rocky start to the year but a return to the upward trend we’re seeing today as the year closes out,” said Andrea Zaretsky, CMO of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. “The reality is that it’s extremely difficult to time the market.”
“It’s never a walk in the park … but yes, we are grateful to have such an iconic spokesperson as the beloved E*Trade baby and his friends,” Zaretsky said. “The baby has played a key role in helping us connect with consumers, investors and traders over the years, and we are thrilled to welcome him back yet again this year.”
This year, E*Trade is hoping he will drive football fans to the brand’s Money Monday event Feb. 12. Offering potential investors up to $1,000 when opening an account, E*Trade has planned a day of financial education featuring a panel discussion with Morgan Stanley chief global economist Seth Carpenter—a veteran of the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve—and personal finance author and podcaster Nicole Lapin.
“To me, [the Super Bowl ad] was just a metaphor of just about competition and winning … and you’ve got to get in the game to win, as opposed to sitting on the sideline,” Murphy said. “This is about E*Trade being your partner in the win, which means planning out for your financial future with all of the tools and features that they give you.”
Murphy noted that E*Trade’s baby has typically been reserved for big cultural moments like the Super Bowl. The rest of the company’s marketing calendar, however, has been dedicated to the function of the platform and making the case for E*Trade over competitors.
With the first Super Bowl commercial completed, Murphy and his team at 72andSunny are hoping E*Trade can do more storytelling throughout the year and extend its Super Bowl presence throughout the calendar. Murphy said he’s discussed a March Madness program with the brand, but he sees even greater opportunity with the sport featured in its Super Bowl ad: Pickleball.
With more than 48 million U.S. adults (or 19% of the adult population) having played pickleball, there’s a large and growing audience that E*Trade could reach year-round. E*Trade is already making an effort, sponsoring Pickleball Slam 2 earlier this month on ESPN, which featured John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf and Maria Sharapova playing for $1 million on pickleball courts at Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla.
The E*Trade baby could sharpen his pickleball smack talk later this year, but only if it works on football fans first.
“Ultimately, a win looks like people loving the commercial, understanding what it was about and then signing up and getting on the platform,” Murphy said. “If someone just laughed and said ‘I love the E*Trade spot, but I don’t care about investing,’ that’s not a win, in my opinion … you have to have the full follow through.”
For the latest Super Bowl 58 advertising news—who’s in, who’s out, teasers, full ads and more—check out Adweek’s Super Bowl 2024 Ad Tracker and the rest of our stories here. And join us on the evening of Feb. 11 for the best in-game coverage of the commercials.