Early Retirement: E-Trade's Talking Baby Steps Down
It's sad when they leave us so young.
Actually the E-Trade baby is already seven years old though he possesses a voice far beyond his apparent age and he's only retiring. So the company has announced, in an ad broadcast during the opening game of the NCAA March Madness tournament.
The talking, trading baby has been the public face of the discount broker, emphasizing the easiness of using E-Trade to invest online in appearances including several Super Bowl spots. But current CEO Paul Idzik is not among the mascot's fans: according to Reuters, Idzik came to the company in January 2013 with the intent of changing its marketing strategy to a more "scientific" approach, "measuring how its messages resonate with clients."
So the sardonic toddler had to go. "I'm done," he declares in his final appearance, angry at the presence of a singing cat said to be his new sidekick. "I'm out of here." He was preceded out the door by top E-Trade executives including marketing head Nick Utton, as well as advertising company Grey Global Group, creator of the campaign.
"The baby was a wonderful iconic expression of who we were," said Utton's replacement, Liza Landsman. "But we want something that better reflects our present and where we are going." The brokerage's next marketing act will unfold for the most part on Internet platforms, in keeping with E-Trade's digital identification.
Though the baby helped make E-Trade a household name, he wasn't very popular among industry observers. In 2009 an Adweek writer called him "an insufferable brat," complaining, "I can feel my brain cells dying each time that stock-savvy cherub pops onto the screen." At Consumerist, the end of "the long-running and ever-creepy" ads was celebrated rapturously: "Call a parade! Ready the fireworks! Erect a statue (so long as it keeps its mouth shut)!"
The baby was voiced by comedian Pete Holmes, who also helped to write the ads. In a resignation letter posted to Facebook, the character fondly remembers "the time we have spent together sharing a laugh and our deepest desires for moderately aggressive investing." E-Trade itself has learned firsthand the importance of that modifier "moderately": the company was badly burned by a pre-crisis move into subprime mortgage-backed securities.