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ANA Conference: E-Trade Offers Survival Strategies In a Troubled Economy-AdAge

What Today's Troubled Businesses Can Learn From E-Trade
CMO Nick Utton and Spark's Ken Zasky Share Tips on How to Survive a Credit Crisis

By Natalie Zmuda

Published: October 20, 2008


ORLANDO, Fla. (AdAge.com) -- E-Trade Financial may have had a startling fall from grace a year ago, but the fact that it's still around offers hope for today's battered financial companies, the marketer and its media agency told an audience during the Oct. 19 general session of the Association of National Advertisers' annual conference.

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No riding it out
"Speed is not negotiable with Nick," Mr. Zasky said. "Speed went a long way to making sure it didn't get out of hand. ... The first instinct may be to ride it out, but you can't ride it out in the basement."

E-Trade moved quickly to reassure panicked investors. It issued statements saying it was not going bankrupt, and it evaluated its advertising. Mr. Zasky said the firm went out and used every channel available, including high-profile digital advertising units on sites such as Wall Street Journal Online. E-Trade also evaluated which media sources led to higher-quality signups for new accounts, meaning consumers who were more active with their trading. Online, that led to the elimination of several websites that historically had been a large part of the media plan.

Once it had taken steps to reassure customers, E-Trade turned its attention to reassuring media partners that bills would be paid.

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Today, E-Trade has won back consumers, touting 1,000 new accounts every day. But it's still not immune to the current financial turmoil, as earnings continue to be hard hit. A loss is expected for the third quarter, the results of which will be announced tomorrow.

"I wish I knew," Mr. Utton said, when asked how the crisis would unfold. "I don't want to be a pessimist; I'm being a pragmatist. The storm will continue. Hopefully, it bottoms out and moves out. In between we'll work very closely with our partners and our brand ambassadors."

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