Target places its bet on earned media

NEW YORK: The notion that the value of an earned media impression will exceed that of a paid impression is transforming marketing at Target, said Jeff Jones, its EVP and CMO.

NEW YORK: The notion that the value of an earned media impression will exceed that of a paid impression is transforming marketing at Target, said Jeff Jones, its EVP and CMO.

Speaking at the PRWeek Conference in New York on Tuesday, Jones discussed the transformation the retailer is undergoing, not only as a multichannel business but also in its marketing.

“We have been a brand defined by advertising, but the days of curating and telling a consumer what we think is best are declining,” said Jones.

Jones discussed Target's recent back-to-college campaign, which involved the retailer placing live cameras in student dorm rooms decorated with Target products and streaming them on a site for 24 hours. Target created shoppable videos and distributed the content through its social channels. The campaign used no traditional paid media and only social ads to bring visibility to the content.

During the campaign, Target received 300,000 visitors to the site, 170 million PR impressions, and 90 million social impressions. The average dwell time on the portal was 11.33 minutes.

While Jones said Target has not had a “breakthrough” in terms of getting this engagement to equate with sales, the organization is committed to innovation in its marketing.

He said that TV advertising is driving the most traffic to Target's main site, and while the retailer will continue to use traditional paid-for media, experimentation is crucial.

“My belief is we have to do what works, while at the same time figuring out what is next. If we wait until it comes true, we will probably be behind. I believe that day is coming,” he explained.

While Target is benefiting from the data it is receiving, Jones said that marketers should not be “driven to death” by algorithms.

“As much as we want to rely on data, we have to realize the human potential of big creative ideas that change the world,” he explained.

Jones said, therefore, it is vital to embrace both creativity and accountability.

“We've got to get past impressions. It is a great challenge but if you believe that earned will be more valuable than paid, you are doing earned a disservice if you count impressions the same way as paid impressions,” he explained.

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