As the election season heads into its final frenzy, b2b marketers are weighing the use of TV advertising over the next several weeks, balancing the need to effectively reach their target audiences against the competition from political ads.
Most large b2b advertisers, such as Dow Chemical Co., Emerson Electric Co., IBM Corp., SAP and Siemens Corp., agree that television is still a vital medium with which to reach their audience of business decision-makers. However, many are scaling back their TV plans until after the elections.
“TV is still very important,” said Tom Haas, CMO at Siemens Corp. “It helps maintain awareness. For a company our size—over $100 billion globally [in annual revenue] and over $25 billion in the U.S.—it establishes us as a key player.”
Siemens rolled out two new TV commercials this year as part of its “Siemens Answers” campaign, created by Ogilvy & Mather New York. One is aimed at the healthcare industry; the other, at the energy sector. The spots have been running since February.
“We don't plan to have much TV in the fourth quarter,” Haas said. “Our feeling is, the elections will be all-consuming. That drives up the cost and drives down the availability and inventory. We don't have a political agenda—we are not looking to advocate for one thing or another. Our feeling is let the elections pass, then come in with a fuller program after the new year, which is our second fiscal quarter.”
Siemens will continue to do targeted print and online advertising during the fourth quarter, he added.
Emerson is taking a similar approach to the election season.
“Traditional media is still very important to build awareness,” said Kathy Button Bell, VP-CMO at Emerson. “People will not come to your website or social media [channels] if they don't know you exist. At the top of my media list are financial news cable channels and global airports.”
In April, Emerson introduced two new TV spots in its ongoing “Never Been Done Before” campaign, created by DDB Chicago. The commercials have been running on cable networks—including CNBC, Fox Business, Fox News and the Golf Channel—accompanied by print ads running in Fortune and The Wall Street Journal.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Button Bell said, “We cut our television budget. We don't want to go into the mess of the elections; you don't get good enough attention.”
Emerson will continue to do airport advertising throughout the fourth quarter, then add television back into its schedule in December, she said.
One b2b advertiser that does have a political agenda is Norfolk Southern Corp., a 175-year-old railway company based in Norfolk, Va.
Last month, it rolled out a new ad campaign, called “City of Possibilities,” aimed at businesses and government officials to show the importance of railways in helping to stimulate the economy.
Norfolk Southern “has been a consistent advertiser on TV since 1982. We believe in it and believe it's effective for us,” said Frank Brown, assistant VP-corporate communications.
“The business audience is very important; we serve 8,700 business customers across the U.S. and in other countries. We also work closely with states and their agencies to locate new plants and facilities along the railway lines. Our television advertising, and particularly the "City of Possibilities' spot, is aimed directly at that group.”
The “City of Possibilities” campaign, created by RP3 Agency, Bethesda, Md., includes TV, online and events. TV is running during the fourth quarter on cable channels, including CNN and Fox, as well as during broadcasts of the presidential debates.
IBM Corp., which has consistently used television as part of its marketing, this month introduced three new TV spots that are part of its “Smarter Planet” initiative during the U.S. Open tennis tournament. IBM is a corporate sponsor of the tournament.
The spots, created by Ogilvy & Mather New York, are aimed at CMOs and business decision-makers, and show how marketing is being transformed by the explosion of data and the intelligence of interconnected systems.
“Television remains an important part of our marketing mix,” said John Kennedy, VP-corporate marketing at IBM. “The choices we as marketers have in terms of reaching and engaging audiences continue to evolve. We want to optimize our media mix to reach the target audience in markets we serve, from the C-suite to line-of-business to IT decision-makers.”
The new TV spots will run during the fourth quarter on sports and news programming, including broadcasts of NFL games and Sunday morning news shows. Kennedy said the election does not figure into IBM's media-buying plans. “It's a nonissue for us.”
Kennedy also said IBM is looking at ways to leverage its TV advertising across newer platforms, such as social media and mobile devices.
During the U.S. Open, for example, IBM tied its TV efforts to a Shazam mobile application that let users find out more about the company on their iPhones. It also created a “data wall” at the event—a 15-foot touchscreen that gave users instant data on the tournament, event and transportation information, and a geo-locator Twitter feed.
Jonathan Becher, CMO at software company SAP, also said TV remains important to his company's overall marketing mix. “We buy a fair amount of TV to reach our target audience, particularly for sports,” he said.
SAP will launch new TV spots in its “Run Like Never Before” campaign, created by Ogilvy & Mather New York, during broadcasts of NFL games in the fourth quarter.
Dow Chemical Co. is another b2b marketer that buys TV.
“TV is absolutely an important vehicle, and it will always remain so,” said Mike Kolleth, director-corporate brand and advertising at Dow. “A lot of creative is highly visual, so TV is still in many ways the best way for us to showcase our products and solutions.”
During the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Dow debuted a TV spot called “Olympic Hopeful” that showed how Dow provided sustainable solutions to the games. The ad was part of Dow's “Solutionism” campaign, rolled out earlier this year. “We needed a different kind of ad for the Olympics, with an appropriate focus for a sports application,” Kolleth said.
The “Solutionism” campaign will run throughout the fourth quarter.