E*Trade Considers New Shop

By Joan Voight and Teresa Andreoli

SAN FRANCISCO–Less than two months after hiring J. Walter Thompson, E*Trade is talking to a new agency about handling the creative portion of its $8-10 million ad account.

‘Our tremendous growth has (prompted) changes in our strategic and marketing plans,’ said a client representative. ‘We need an agency with a different style.’ E*Trade plans to announce a new agency and fresh campaign ‘soon,’ she said.

Gotham in New York is in negotiations with the Palo Alto, Calif., on-line trading company about taking over the business, sources said. The agency, a contender in the company’s recent agency search, referred questions to E*Trade’s public relations shop.

Officials at JWT’s San Francisco office declined to comment about the assignment’s status. That office will continue to handle media planning and buying duties, according to insiders.

Among the shops that competed against JWT for the assignment in February were Black Rocket, Blazing Paradigm and Goldberg Moser O’Neill, all in San Francisco. None of those shops were in talks with E*Trade last week, sources said.

Gotham was not picked as the winning agency in February mainly because of its location. Top management at E*Trade always favored the New York agency, however, and pushed for the change in shops, sources said.

Before turning to an outside shop for creative work, E*Trade handled advertising in-house. Initially, the company focused on small shops, but eventually opened the search to include JWT. Past E*Trade ads have taken an assertive retail stance, comparing the company’s fees with those of other on-line trading services. Future work is expected to put a greater emphasis on establishing a brand personality.

The on-line stock trading category is heating up, with more of a focus on advertising. Charles Schwab in San Francisco hiked its advertising budget for its on-line service and started a review last week.

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