Choosing The Right Agency Partner: BrandedCultures Work With TD Ameritrade


Whether your a large corporation or a growing small-medium business, finding the right marketing agency can complicated and time consuming, especially when you consider the tens of thousands of agencies out there. And, if your company is following the trend of looking for a smaller, more nimble or focused agency partner, mapping the agency landscape is hard.

Agency Spotter helps brands of all sizes navigate the agency landscape to quickly discover the marketing agencies and design firms that fit your need, no matter how specialized an agency you are looking for. Once you build your agency shortlist, what should you look for in the perfect partner?

Let’s take a look at the partnership between TD Ameritrade (formerly TD Waterhouse) and BrandedCultures

BrandedCultures TD Waterhouse Ad

How It Came About

The brokerage industry was experiencing tremendous change in the late ‘90s. The stock market seemed to hit new highs every week, do it yourself investors discovered they could save significant money on commissions by trading online, and now that everyone had access to the internet, they could easily keep track of their investments make adjustments accordingly. Brands like Schwab and E*Trade made a big splash, investing hundreds of millions of dollars on ad campaigns making online investing fun.

Waterhouse Securities was stuck in the past, running the same small space print ad focusing on $12 trades – and they began to realize they were invisible against the arms race taking place elsewhere.

“As we got to know them we realized the way they were marketing was old, it was not brand-building, the world was changing,” said Steve Crane, Chief Strategic Officer at BrandedCultures. “And so for us, if we could ever convince them, that this was the time to be a brand and become a brand it would be a spectacular job and case study for us.”

They needed to believe in the power of branding, as Crane puts it, and TD Waterhouse finally came to BrandedCultures and asked the agency to make them a brand.

“The marketplace forced them and they saw it, and they realized we could help them,” said Ken Pastor, Managing Partner at BrandedCultures.

Why did TD Waterhouse pick BrandedCultures?

“Chemistry,” said Paster, “We demonstrated we understood the competitive landscape, the mindset of the online investor, and most importantly, the internal culture of Waterhouse.”

The marketing department at TD Waterhouse liked BrandedCultures the most and who the agency was as people. The agency maintained a healthy balance between being professional and not pushy. It was all about relationship between the agency and the brand, and TD Waterhouse liked working with an agency like BrandedCultures.

“They appreciated our professionalism, our take on things, our point of view,” Crane said. The client has to see value for an agency to establish a relationship, and TD Waterhouse always saw great value in BrandedCultures, which is a major reason why the relationship worked.

“We thought it was really important to understand the business really well and make recommendations constantly, so we were trying to advise them while they are becoming a brand anyway,” Paster said. BrandedCultures didn’t wait for client mandates, but rather, they took the initiative and went above-and-beyond for their client.

“Waterhouse was a straightforward, no nonsense brand”, echoed Crane. “In good times or bad, you could expect Waterhouse had the tools to help you succeed. They weren’t there the sell you.” In 2003, Law & Order star Sam Waterston became the brand spokesperson. “His values were a perfect match for Waterhouse, “ said Crane.

Sam Waterston Law Order BrandedCultures

How did the campaign unfold?

BrandedCultures did the initial round of brand awareness advertising for them through a series of TV spots, which included big-time Hollywood names like Jackie Chan, and even sports legends like Phil Jackson. The campaign and partnership took off, with the agency and TD Waterhouse working together for several years after winning their business.

BrandedCultures continued to do branded content past 2001, even bringing on Law & Order star Sam Waterston for TV spots, who became a crucial figure for the brand.

BrandedCultures TD Waterhouse

What did BrandedCultures learn from the partnership?

The partnership, for BrandedCultures, brought to light how important internal culture was in branding, and it’s how brands separate themselves from other brands. This partnership is where the agency philosophy started and it’s why the agency thrives today.

“Based on the success we had with Waterhouse, we became convinced a brands internal culture is its most important asset,” said Ken Paster.

“It’s a true differentiator.” Added Crane, “Since that time, we’ve used this approach in a number of new business pitches, and it has helped us with a many clients, including large brands like Memorial Sloan Kettering, Cynergy Data, McGraw Hill, as well as with small retailers like Wilson Jewelry and Trapp Optical.”

What BrandedCultures thinks TD Waterhouse learned from their partnership

BrandedCultures wants to know what a brand is like on the inside, and once they were given access with TD Waterhouse they could market them effectively because they understood the internal culture. The agency did their homework and it led to them getting the business as BrandedCultures told TD Waterhouse what they saw internally so they could become a culture brand.

“The meeting was all about the client,” Crane said.

Specialized agencies are the choice of more and more big brands

TD Waterhouse was a major brand, and, although they could have gone with big agency on this campaign, they did not. BrandedCultures specialized in figuring out who a brand is internally, and they went above-and-beyond in making sure their partnership with the big brand was a successful one.

More and more big brands are selecting specialized agencies like BrandedCultures to make sure they always get the “A-team,” can be more nimble, and focus their spend.

The partnership between BrandedCultures and TD Waterhouse is exactly the kind of partnership we love to see here at Agency Spotter. We hope this insight into their working relationship helps your business build a trusted partnership with your next agency.

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About Chase Thomas

Chase Thomas is a marketer at Agency Spotter, helping brands connect with marketing agencies and design firms. In his free time, Chase loves to explore new places, play basketball, attend sporting events, and read.