Commercial Break: E-Trade Has Cooler Graphics Than Ever!   Leave a comment

Broadcast: 11 November 2012
Program: Face the Nation
Channel: CBS
Conglomerate: National Amusements/Viacom/CBS Corporation

Advertiser: E-Trade
Owned By: E-Trade
Pitch: The new E-Trade isn’t as shitty as the old one, we promise.

As the poster company for on-line stock speculation, E-Trade has always been at the forefront of turning “investing” into nothing more than an elaborate on-line gaming experience that happens to involve real money.  As the years have gone by and the promise of instant wealth trading stocks in your pajamas has been repeatedly exposed as a fantasy, their marketing has become increasingly vague over just what they’re offering.  These days they hardly mention money or the stock market, instead highlighting all the features that make trading easy for you (yes, you!), the small investor who can can detect trends and opportunities better than those coked out dollar jockeys in the canyons of Manhattan.   

You can see that vagueness in those screechingly awful talking baby commercials, where the whole pitch is that anyone, even infants, can invest with their tools.  (And since you’re smarter than a baby, how hard could it be?)  You can also see it in more generic commercials like this one, which doesn’t so much as discuss what you might actually be doing, but rather makes stocks look like a cool video game that you can play from anywhere.  It’s a short ad, just 15-seconds, and this is the entirety of the narration:

E-trade technology can help make you a better investor.  Our E-trade 360 investing dashboard shows you where your money is live.  E-trade Pro is so useable you’ll actually use it.  And our apps are the ultimate in mobile investing.  Become a better investor, at E-trade.

Note that there’s nothing there about actual investing, what their tools do, or even a single number about commissions, trades, whatever.  Anything that smacks of complexity or risk has been eliminated.  All they’re offering is something that’s bigger, cooler, and more powerful than the previous version.  But the narration is the minority partner here, the real heavy lifting is done by the graphics:

E-Box 360

Cool laptop, bro.

That would be the “E-trade 360 investing dashboard” which presumably does not play Halo 4 and stream Netflix, but might.  But wait, there’s more:

E-Trade Pro Comes In Five Different Colors

Awesome, I’ll look just like those guys on TV with all the monitors!

This is “E-trade Pro” the thing that’s “so usable you’ll actually use it”, which is good because the small, negligibly legible print says that you must make at least 30 trades every “calendar quarter” to keep using it.  In other words, this is E-trade 360’s version of in-game purchasable content.  Don’t want to spend two hours looking for the Wizard Key?  Just make at least ten trades a month.  Finally, we get to the new handheld version:
 For the Gambler on the Go

Yeah, but does it play Tetris?

This is the best part, because if there’s one thing that’s the opposite of careful, well researched investment, it’s the need to buy and sell stocks while you’re in line at Starbucks, sitting on the can, or frustrated by the new expansion pack for Angry Birds.  Like casinos that put the slot machines near the entrance because they’re the easiest game to play, all E-trade is pushing here is convenience.  They want you to know that the barrier to entry for flinging money around is lower than it’s ever been, that you (yes, you!) can do it just like the big boys, as though the only thing holding you back was better graphics and a slicker user interface. 

Posted November 12, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

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