TD Ameritrade Is Starting To Bank On Mobile

TDAmeritradeOnline stock trading company TD Ameritrade is investing more in mobile advertising – but is struggling to determine the impact.

“Measurement continues to be a challenge,” said Francie Staub, a Razorfish vet and current director of digital marketing at TD Ameritrade. “We’re still trying to connect the dots between exposure and conversion.”

TD Ameritrade’s target audience is quite specific: savvy traders and investors who spend a lot of time reading up on financial topics. It’s also a tech-savvy crowd that’s constantly tethered to their phones.

“Our audience is finite and we know our audience is mobile,” Staub said. “So, we have to strike a balance where we’re really concentrating our buy and making sure we don’t reach the point where we’re hammering them with ads.”

Which is why TD Ameritrade is testing mobile at multiple touch points along the funnel, both higher up as a branding tool and lower down as a direct-response mechanism to encourage users to open accounts and download TD’s mobile trading app.

Staub is careful to avoid judging mobile by the same rules as cookie-based online advertising, where it’s far easier to connect media placement to ultimate conversion.

“If we measure mobile by the hardcore DR metrics we use for online, it’s not going to look like it’s performing as well as digital,” she said.

Part of TD Ameritrade’s mobile experimentation has been with ONE Mobile, a subsidiary of Media General (which itself was just acquired by local TV station operator Nexstar Broadcasting Group at the end of January).

In September and October, TD Ameritrade tested out ONE’s “Responsive Square” ad format, an HTML5 mobile display unit that adapts itself to different placement sizes and operating systems depending on the device and the publisher. Users are also able to take actions within the unit itself – fill out a short form, watch a video, locate a store, click to call, etc. – without being shunted off to another page or site.

The goal is to help advertisers take advantage of mobile display rather than making it into an inadvertent recruitment ad for ad blocking.

“Display is absolutely a catalyst for people to download ad blockers – there’s no way to mince words,” said Kevin Wassong, CEO and founder of ONE Mobile. “But the reality is that it’s bad advertising that’s the problem, not advertising in general.”

tdameritradeadProgrammatic does bear some responsibility, he said.

“With the programmatic ecosystem came the idea that we can fill any space with anything at any time, and that’s when the industry got more obsessed with filling space than with what they’re filling it with,” Wassong said. “You can certainly buy cheap eyeballs because that represents the majority of inventory in the marketplace, but if brands want to connect with consumers, they need good creative.”

Rather than app-install ads, TD Ameritrade was looking for a “better canvas” to tell its story and “really educate people about our app,” Staub said.

ONE worked with Havas, TD Ameritrade’s agency, to create a carousel unit that allowed users to scroll through the various features of TD’s mobile app followed by a call to action to download.

TD created lookalike audiences based on typical active trader behaviors, and targeted users across the usual suspects like CNNMoney, MarketWatch and Yahoo Finance, as well as sports sites and the finance sections of local news sites.

“We know what our traders are interested in, so lookalike targeting is huge for us and typically even more effective than behavioral targeting,” Staub said.

Although TD found it difficult to follow the media placement all the way through to ultimate download, it ran a Vizu brand study to assess the campaign’s impact on awareness, noting a 20.8% overall brand lift among an exposed group versus the control. TD Ameritrade also saw a roughly 9% brand lift compared to its competitors in the financial vertical.

“This was one the first times we freed ourselves from judging mobile based on how many accounts were opened, so we don’t have a lot of benchmarks,” Staub said. “But we did better than the industry average, so we were pleased with this as a first pass.”

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