GE, New York Times and Chanel Execs Discuss How They Market Their Most Powerful Messages at SXSW

From Facebook to print to branded content

GE CMO Linda Boff spoke at SXSW.
Photo: Alfred Maskeroni

As part of The New York Times’ day of programming at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, a panel of marketing executives discussed Facebook’s hold on the ad market, the unique benefits of print advertising and crafting messages that resonate with their respective target audiences.

While Facebook works well as a targeting mechanism, there are unique opportunities for print, said Linda Boff, CMO of GE. For instance, GE ran a print ad in the Boston Globe the Monday after the Super Bowl, congratulating the Patriots on their win.

“Context is still incredibly important,” Boff said. “That was a moment where we wanted to be in the Boston Globe. As a consumer, when I read Vogue, I’m reading the ads as much as the articles, because they’re gorgeous.”

Boff also praised Facebook’s sophisticated targeting mechanisms, as well as newer social networks, which allow for more experimentation.

“On Facebook, if you want to reach a 35-year-old teacher in Peoria who likes EDM, you can. That’s the plus. The challenge is, is a three-second video a relationship? We don’t know that yet,” she said. “I don’t long for the days when there were only three or four networks, when you could place an ad on Cheers and get a 30 share, because new formats, like Instagram and Snapchat, particularly at the beginning, let us experiment and learn for cheap.”

Meredith Kopit Levien, evp and chief revenue officer for The New York Times company, discussed the Times’ recent campaign which focused on the importance of truth—its first brand campaign in 10 years, which ran as a TV ad during the Oscars and included print, digital, social and outdoor ads.

The campaign shows that brands can’t live on Facebook alone, she said. “Facebook is a requirement in almost any media campaign, but it’s limited in its ability to add breadth or gravitas to what you’re doing.”

Adina Kagan, svp, media and consumer insights at Chanel, also extolled print as a medium.

“We spend 10 hours a day looking at screens, and we all have that instinct that we want to beat that addiction,” she said. “Print has a unique opportunity to engage people in a different way.”

The panel also discussed the growth of branded content and publishers’ role in it.

“The distribution has been taken over by Google and Facebook, but now, publishing is in the creative game: what are we going to do, as brands supporting editorial work, or brands introducing innovations, so we can make content together,” Kopit Levien said.

Added Boff, “When I hear ‘branded content,’ I worry that it means ‘crappy content,’ and none of us want to be in that game. We want to create content that’s interesting, and there are a lot of great ways to do that with media as partners, but there are really bad examples out there. It’s about knowing the difference, versus just checking the box of branded content.”