Last week The New York Times launched a bold new marketing campaign featuring print ads, outdoor ads and television spots, including an ad that ran on the Oscar’s on Sunday. You can read more about it here.
I have three thoughts about the new effort.
The Times last ran television ads in 2010. It last supported a branding campaign a decade ago. This is astonishing. A major media organization cuts all the advertising? Really?
The publication hasn’t exactly been thriving over the past decade. Circulation is down, ad revenue is down even more, and the company has gone through a series of layoffs. The stock has been disappointing.
When a business is struggling, marketing is more important than ever. How else are you going to reverse the trends? The New York Times should have been investing in its business every year.
As they say about trees, the best time to plant one was twenty years ago. The next best time is today. So too with a branding effort.
They have a promising strategy. Many people in the U.S. are concerned about political developments and want quality journalism, especially in an era with “alternative facts.” This makes an independent press particularly important. People forget, however, that a media organization can only exist if there is revenue to support it. All too many folks who value newspapers no longer subscribe to them. This is a problem.
The new campaign is clearly trying to remind people that journalism is expensive and warrants support. The Times is looking for new subscribers and for people to sponsor a subscription for someone else.
With a good strategy one might assume that the execution would be strong, too. Unfortunately, that is not the case. You can watch it here. The TV execution—the heart of the campaign—is a confusing series of statements. What do these all mean, anyway?
In a bid to be creative, the Times seems to have lost a bit of the plot. I wonder if a more direct sell would have a greater impact. “The New York Times gives you the real news, not alternative facts. It costs a lot of money for us to do this. Subscribe now.”
Great brands require support; you have to constantly reinforce the core proposition. It is good to see the New York Times investing in its brand, even if the campaign could be stronger.
The next session of the Kellogg on Branding executive education course is May 7 to 12. Sign up to learn more about building great brands in the digital world. Here is the link.