Commentary

Sweet C-Suite

Last week, Tom Hespos wrote about the demolition of the barriers standing in the way of online advertising taking its rightful place as a viable and strategically meaningful part of the integrated media mix.

I wanted to comment on another barrier that recently fell – reaching the elusive C-suite online – which made me particularly satisfied and further encouraged that it is just a matter of time before we see a “Tipping Point”-type online momentum effect.

In the past, it was difficult enough making online media’s case, especially against reaching an older, more affluent consumer. “My kids are constantly online, but not me!” was the argument.

Syndicated panel-based research helped to a point, but in an industry where 6 months might as well be 6 years, the whole truth is not always evident.

Then there were the sweeping generalizations: “CEO’s don’t know how to use computers; their executive assistants check their email for them; they’re too busy to surf the Internet; if you really want to reach the C-suite, try Meet the Press or Golf.”

Maybe this isn’t the best time to reference IBM’s e-business push which began more than 5 years ago, directly communicating the technology directive and imperative to the various Fortune 500 Captains of Industry. But isn’t it possible that some of this rubbed off along the way and a new breed of C-Suite emerged from the ashes: a technology-infused leader fully capable of syncing, surfing, sending and SMS’ing?

Enter Forbes.com with their newly released research, which firmly dispels any preconceived speculation that the C-suite and the Web were analogous to oil and water.

When I first met the folks at Forbes.com, I will admit I wasn’t overwhelmed (which is a nice way of saying I was underwhelmed.) I didn’t want to see a newly-sized homepage button or a sponsorship tab; I wanted to see firm proof that Forbes could deliver online what they produce offline. I took this mandate to Forbes and they did not disappoint.

So from the brink of obscurity, we now have proof that the Web is the number one consumed medium amongst the online C-suite audience. If you’re thinking it’s déjà vu all over again, you’re quite correct. The recent OPA study concluded that from Monday thru Friday, the Internet is the number one consumed medium amongst the online at-work audience. The two pieces of research certainly complement each other, sending out a powerful signal in the process: there are significant competitive advantages in bridging the gap between online media consumption and spend.

Here are some of the other nuggets I picked up from the study:

  • Internet consumption is not only the highest (average 16 hours/week) amongst media vehicles, it is also just under double that of the second placed medium, TV (8.6 hours/week)
  • 53% of the C-suite sample visit more than 10 sites a month when looking for business and financial information. This larger consideration set implies that C-suite loyalty is still up for grabs. Furthermore, it is consistent with data that shows the number of frequently viewed sites decreases with tenure, implying that the C-suite is still relatively new to the Web
  • This being said, I found it interesting that 40% of the sample viewed themselves as expert at navigating the Web for business and financial information, compared with 56% who considered themselves as intermediate. Are you surprised that only 4% termed themselves as novices? It’s human nature to avoid referring to oneself as Web-challenged, but could it also possibly be true that people capable of running multi-billion dollar companies could also figure out how to use a browser?
  • TV outranked the Internet in only 2 categories: “have innovative advertising” and “have too much advertising.” In the former category, the Internet was not far behind, suggesting that this target audience is favorably disposed to the Web as a media delivery vehicle.
  • Furthermore, when gauged against “have advertising rich in information,” the Web resumed the top ranking at 62%, with TV lagging at 16%. A recent study in the Journal of Marketing Research echoed the Web’s role in terms of delivering information in new markets, in which there is a lack of knowledge. This has far reaching acquisition implications.

    Now that we’ve been able to successfully navigate the C-suite sand trap, the green is now in our sights. Ahead of us are still some remaining hazards: inertia (water), risk (trees) and budget (slope).

    But as Gary Player once said, “the more I practice, the luckier I get.”

    Fore-ward!

    - Joseph Jaffe is Director of Interactive Media at TBWA\Chiat\Day in New York, where he works with clients including Kmart, ABSOLUT Vodka, Samsonite, Embassy Suites and Cunard. His primary focus is to highlight interactive's value and benefit in meeting his clients' integrated business and branding objectives.

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