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Ad of the Day: Meet Charles Schwab's New Intelligent, Nonhuman Pitchman


Charles Schwab gets replaced by a robotic pitchman in Crispin Porter + Bogusky's new campaign introducing a digital platform called Schwab Intelligent Portfolios.

A stylized, British-accented, boxy digital monitor has the starring role. It floats in the air like some kind of finance drone, explaining its mission—"I am a fully automated investment advisory service. I can help you choose investments, monitor them and rebalance your portfolio"—in soothing, measured tones that make me believe it would really rather kill all humans! (Or at least mess with their credit scores, like these sadistic servers.)

I understand the client's desire to bring the technology to life, as it were, and give it a personality. But to me, the brokerage bot's calm demeanor and trippy futuristic environs bring to mind 2001: A Space Odyssey's murderous HAL 9000. I kept expecting the unit to purr, "Your income is shrinking, Dave," before belting out a few choruses of "Bicycle Built for Two."

In one of four 30-second spots breaking this week, the device—named "Blue," apparently—concedes that some customers might prefer dealing with a member of their own species. "You can always speak to someone at Schwab," it says. "They aren't algorithms. Try not to hold it against them."

Will consumers trust this machine? We asked a human at Charles Schwab: Jonathan Craig, the firm's CMO.

Why go in such an offbeat direction?
We believe that the launch of Schwab Intelligent Portfolios is a large, disruptive move that has the potential to fundamentally change how many Americans invest. We needed a breakthrough campaign idea that reflected the significance of the launch. The campaign is anchored by a blue square, designed to personify the technology with a simple iconic visual device. The square has a direct connection to the Schwab brand. It is a symbol for how consumers engage with technology today (experiencing everything online in icons and apps) and it helps us to tell the product story in a clever, sharp and witty way.

Do you think people might find it creepy?
We think Blue is anything but off-putting and did extensive research to validate the approach. He is clever—intelligent, even—and to the point.

Why make such a radical change and show a computer, especially when the brand is famous for using its namesake as pitchman?
We have used Chuck in our marketing multiple times over the last several years and will likely do so again. He is a huge asset that embodies the values of the firm more than anyone, and he has a unique ability to connect with clients and prospects. For the launch of Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, however, we wanted to take a unique approach that signaled the revolutionary nature of what we are offering.

What's the key message for consumers?
Millions of Americans are in need of investment advice but haven't found a good option. We want them to understand that Schwab Intelligent Portfolios is right for anyone looking for an easier, more accessible and affordable way to get investment advice.

We're expecting that this new campaign will reach a broader set of people who might in the past have tuned out marketing from financial services firms. In fact, we began extensive out-of-home advertising two weeks ago before launch—without any brand identification—to generate excitement and create buzz that would help us rise above our category.

Client: Charles Schwab
Agency: CP+B, Los Angeles
Executive Creative Director: Sue Anderson
Creative Directors: Hoj Jomehri, Krista Wicklund
Associate Creative Directos: Gary Du Toit, Antonio Mercato, Jimbo Emery, Nicholas Loftus
Copywriter: Eric Scott
Art Director: Daniel Koo
Executive Integrated Producer: Darryl Hagans
Production Company: Digital Domain
Mixing: Lime Studios
Audio Engineer: Samuel Casas
Audio Engineer Assistant: Kevin McAlpone
Music: Ring the Alarm
Head of Production: Jenny Hollowell
Creative Director: Darren Hollowell
Executive Vice President, Managing Director: Mason Reed
Vice President, Group Account Director: Ryan Skubic
Content Management Supervisors: Fiorella Juarez, Charissa Kinney, Laura Cunningham
Content Manager: Kara Bergman
Vice President, Business Affairs Manager: Rebecca Williams
Cognitive Anthropologists: David Measer, Steven Garcia
Traffic Managers: Kelton Wright, Cati Coscuella

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