TD Ameritrade advertising

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

7 September 2017

TD Ameritrade Commercials 

TD AmeritradeThe power in TV commercials can vary. Sometimes they look to inform. Often they look to amuse. Many times they hope to raise awareness. Hopefully, they all want to persuade. What does TD Ameritrade do?

If you are the TD Ameritrade brand, you need to be credible and believable. And its new commercial series attempt to do just that.


“A financial services brand MUST be regarded as sincere. TD Ameritrade has tried to do this. But casting the wrong actor has cost it credibility.”

The new TD Ameritrade Campaign

TD AmeritradeThe campaign features a bearded spokesperson of sorts who asks everyone about retirement. But he also asks them about their life plans before retirement.

This is a sound strategic plan. Attempting to position the TD Ameritrade brand as grounded in our reality. They convince us that TD Ameritrade sees the bigger picture. That only TD Ameritrade helps us plan for the immediate future as well as the distant future.

Look at one example from the series called Green room.

How the brand went wrong

On its surface, all seems good. It deftly melds a serious message with a light conversational tone. We are to think of the spokesperson as REAL. An honest financial advisor (even though it never claims that he is one). Someone who has density, clarity and empathy for our life situation. The whole tone is serious and thoughtful.

So, what’s the problem?

TD Ameritrade Actor Jim ConroyThe main character is the problem. We know him from other work. Familiarity can be a plus if you are looking for an endorsement but this is not that.

This is a highly successful actor and voiceover artist named Jim Conroy and we have seen and heard him many times before.

This familiarity causes the value of this brand development to suffer. Instead of believing in the sincerity of the brand we see artifice. A made for TV drama that speaks sleight of hand.

This is not what you are looking for as a trusted financial advisor

For TD Ameritrade, this IS a BIG deal. Jim is a believable actor.  And well cast. Other than other than his familiarity. But the agency knew better. IT KNEW his history and popularity and cast him anyway.

Jim Conroy suffers from being recognizable. His strength as an actor resides in his interesting face. Too bad that’s why we remember him.

Look at this ad featuring Jim for AT&T

Here he is adding a voice over for Kraft Foods.

Was he their only choice?

TD AmeritradeHe may have been a great choice for the TD Ameritrade commercial series but he was NOT the only choice. I think the agency settled for him because he could act the part. But context matters. Especially for TD Ameritrade. (Read about changing advertising agencies to fix your brand here.)

There is always a risk in commercial development. But no one can afford to squander money and time. This series could be great. But TD Ameritrade needs an agency with vision beyond the advertising. They need to see.


  1. Frank Woodbery

    Recognition of Jim from his other work was not a problem for me. I just find the character shrill, annoying, condescending and simply not serious. As a potential client, I would never let a person without any real gravitas manage my life’s savings.

    • bv gh

      I thought the Janitor ads were the absolute worst and simply pathetic for a financial firm, now along comes this new unwatchable campaign – astonishingly bad and a new low.
      Simply incredible that TDA attempts to attract potential clients with some sort of sarcastic (previously over-exposed in other ads) know-it-all lead character.
      For example in pool playing spot – what is the intended client attracting message where the potential customer is portrayed as an imbecile ?
      Who reviews and approves this garbage – sad frankly.

  2. Robert McAvoy

    The TD Ameritrade commercials are terrible. The actor is so condescending and annoying. (By the way, I have a lot invested at TD Ameritrade, as do my sons). But the commercial is so bad, I change channels whenever he starts talking.

    • Dave Glover

      The purpose of a TV spot is to be noticed amongst all of the advertising media clutter. Even if you are annoyed by the spot, the actors, the set or whatever you might notice, the goal is to make it memorable. We all know that the Freud type character doesn’t actually work at TD Ameritrade. You do remember the sponsor.

      • Maggie Walsh

        All I know is I can’t stand that guy and want to forcibly shave his face. I wanted to see who he was so had to watch an ad to find out what company he was representing. The ad is sadly memorable. The company isn’t.

  3. Gary Canady

    I have to let you know up front that Jim is my nephew.
    It’s really interesting to read criticisms (and positive feed backs) of his work in commercials. The thing to remember here is that he is performing the scripts that are given to him by the sponsor. His performances are not based on his personal beliefs or his opinions of the company that he is working for. He is usually in these commercials for his general appearance and demeanor, and yes, somewhat based on his previous work.
    Also, it doesn’t matter what it is, or how well it is presented, there will be those who dislike a certain commercial for one reason or another. And there are those who like it based on pure entertainment value. It seems that most of the people who dislike the Ameritrade commercials are serious investors who have an issue with the company’s approach to attracting potential customers. It seems a little strange that some of them were already customers.
    You can’t please all of the people all of the time. And I know that Jim is aware of this. He has done really well for himself and I am proud of him.

    • Norman

      With this ad campaign, you (he, them) CANNOT please 99.999% of the people any of the time–it is just THAT bad. A “serious” actor who sells their soul to do such lame spots is anything but serious. I suggest, that similar to the worst movie awards, The Razzies, we call the worst advertising awards, The Trifles. “He has done really well for himself.” Really? Perhaps $$$ but certainly not image-wise, as every spot has been dubious, indelibly irritating, pandering, and posits him in a decidedly UNprofessional light. Can you hear me now?

      “I didn’t like my beard at first, but then it grew on me.”

    • B.C. Meyers

      So glad finally went online to see who the young beaded man on the TD Ameritrade ad is. Every time the ad goes on, I watch it because of him, his style, personality, good personal interactive skills and more. He generates decency, interest in whomever he is talking to, and has a dry sense of humor. I think he is the BEST part of the ad and actually never remember the name of the company. .I am a retired family therapist and actually surprised if not shocked how many negative comments are about him. He seems like a very kind, knowledgable and trusting soul (and I am a big, informed investor)…..Go figure……
      Glad his uncle wrote a comment, very helpful as well, congrats !

      • James Goldman

        Totally agree with you. What’s wrong with an actor playing a decent empathetic character?

  4. Remy

    IT is a terrible series of ads I can barely watch. The Conroy guy is too smart alecky and smarmy. Get rid of it!

  5. Claire

    Well, I like these ads! Lots of people who come in to a financial planner’s office are NOT experienced or sophisticated about investing. They are nervous. This ad sends the message that they can speak with someone who is able to make them feel comfortable! Not stupid because they do not yet know investment terminology. But someone they can talk to on their own terms. He seems easy to relate to.

    I think Ameritrade is smart to take this approach.

  6. Thomas Marro

    I like the commercials, they make you think and are refreshing.

    • Pat Eliot

      I have to disagree with the author of this piece. As someone who usually ignores most commercials because they are so annoying, I find myself watching these because — for me — the actor is refreshingly different and absolutely perfect. I’ve actually considered looking into TD Ameritrade… and isn’t that the sign of a good commercial, that it makes you want to buy the product?

  7. DD

    Disclaimer: Obviously, I’m not as smart or as educated (although I have a masters degree) as the harsh critics of Jim and this campaign. Sorry, we are not all ad geniuses who follow every 30-second spot that airs. I watch news, primarily financial news, 4-6 hours a day. As an economist, it’s a convenient way for me to stay current. I totally agree, the learning-disabled janitor ads were terrible. But to me, Jim is a refreshing break from the usual high-volume, high-pressure brokerage ads. To me, he is neither condescending nor irritating. Rather, he is a calm, friendly acquaintance who is very believable as an intermediary between the interesting people in the green room and professionals who offer useful products. I never pay attention to ads. I paid attention to these, and found them both informative and appealing. I guess you critics also slammed Lionel Richie’s recent addition to the series. I feel sorry for you.

  8. Wayne Ligato

    The commercials are witty,erudite and well delivered. I’m amazed at the criticism. They address several types and levels of investor. Some people go negative in an attempt to add value to their opinion. So I guess they like Captain Obvious or the “badda book,badda bing” guy.

  9. Douglas Worley

    Mr. Conway…..pleeaze don’t tell us how good T.D. Ameritrade sales people treat potentential clients. You should concentrate on learning how to shoot a eight ball combo or how to to shoot a jump shoot from the free throw line! Maybe trade-in the Tom McCann’s for a decent pair of Converses….get the picture? Good…

  10. Daniel

    I am in the financial services industry, working in product development for a corporate home office in the independent broker dealer space, and I really like the TD Commercials. To be honest, I have never recognized Jim from any other commercials but found TD’s approach to soliciting their services to be very refreshing. I am probably from a different demographic then many of the other commenters – so I can only speak to the next generation of investors.

  11. John McMasters

    It’s despicable; believe me, I know because I’ve been trading futures contracts for sixteen years that do trade “all night long”.
    Jim Conway needs to change his name to Stu. Doesn’t anybody remember Stu and the copy machine at the top of the dotcom bubble getting his boss to buy 100 shares just because the commission was only nine bucks instead of two-hundred?
    The ad turned out to be the bell ringing at the top just as this “all night long” trading ad will have been in hindsight, too.

  12. Michael Richardson

    Wow! I am really surprised at all the criticism. I absolutely love this series of commercials. Some are better than others, but if a new one that I haven’t seen before comes on, I stop whatever I’m doing to watch like it’s a new episode of a TV short. It just goes to show that different perspectives can greatly influence one’s appreciation. I did not recognize Jim from other commercials even though I had seen all of the commercials pointed out in this article. However, those were different characters, and Jim is a really good actor with a captivating presence. Despite not having recognized him as an actor, I never assumed he was a real adviser, no more than I would expect Flo to answer the phone if I were to call Progressive Insurance. Ameritrade doesn’t lose any credibility with me. In fact, they are the first firm I think of if someone mentions investment or trading. I think their commercials are effective.

  13. Danielle

    I read the commentary, and had I never seen the TD Ameritrade ads, I would agree with the findings articulated in the commentary. However … I HAVE seen the ads, and I continue to stop whatever I’m doing to see the ads, even if I’ve seen them 10 times, or more!!! I love the ads about the newly joined family (with the parrot), the “cutesy” ads with Lionel Ritchie, and all of the others.
    I find them memorable. The actor’s voice is memorable, and the situations are real. I’ve been in quite a few of them myself. I had never seen the lettuce ad before and though I had seen the AT&T ad once, I didn’t even notice that it was the same actor. I hope TD Ameritrade continues to present new ads. Love ’em!

  14. John

    I think he’s one of the most effective spokesmen currently on TV. He’s non-threatening, helpful, friendly without being smarmy, and appears to be just plain decent. My favorite at the moment is the ‘kale’ one. Whoever cast him did TD Ameritrade a huge favor

  15. Sally Defyindsky

    I think it would be funny as hell to have the TD Ameritrade be the psychiatrist from the Sopranos.

  16. Marilee

    I love the TD Ameritrade commercials with Jim Conroy! He is approachable, friendly, and a bit nerdy. Love him and all the other actors in each one.

  17. Victor

    Are the potential customers also actors.?

  18. Chuck

    To say these ads are boring is an understatement. The guy comes off as weak and uninformed. l would like to change the channel as soon as he comes on, but the alternative is either a Liberty Mutual ad or that awful annoying Peloton spot. Come on people… put some WORK into your ads, please !!!


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