CNBC's Advertising Week summit on how marketers connect to consumers could have been called "No, really, we love TV!" The discussion was intended to be a free-roaming exploration about consumer passion, authenticity, and marketing challenges in a world that has little trust for business. But the gravitational pull of Facebook (whose COO Sheryl Sandberg was, appropriately enough, seated dead center) kept the conversation on social media.
The apparent subtext that TV might need to get its affairs in order wasn't lost on host Becky Quick, co-host of CNBC's "Squawk Box" show, who rhetorically asked more than once whether she would have a job next year.
"Television is still important," said Dan Rosensweig, president and CEO of Guitar Hero. "People have to re-think how they advertise. At Guitar Hero we took 40% of our budget that used to be on TV and it moved to the Internet. Television is wonderful, but when you have incredible sites like Facebook, you have to be smart with what you do, where your consumer is and how to reach them all the time."
He said the change was hard to sell to a skeptical employee base at first. "Guitar Hero was very successful, so I had to sit there and make the case. But if you look at Guitar Hero 5, we have nearly a million fans on Facebook. Where else can you find a million people who say, 'I love your product -- please communicate with me?'"
Pam El, VP marketing at State Farm, was candid about her product's lack of luster compared to, well, Guitar Hero. "[Rosensweig] has the coolest product on the planet; Sheryl [Sandberg] has the coolest way for people to talk to each other, and David [Jones, global CEO of Havas Worldwide, also on the panel] is just cool. But here at State Farm, we sell insurance. It's not cool."
She said that while the company uses Facebook to generate some emotional energy with consumers, "more importantly, we are moving into the community, so you will see us in high school and sports arenas -- so we are not only shifting media out of TV but out of the traditional media period into grassroots sponsorships."
On TV, El said, State Farm is doing fewer 30-second ads and more product placement and integration. Online, she says, the real competition is not other insurance companies, but companies like Guitar Hero.
"Now we are going after younger adults and Hispanics, which makes it that much more challenging. We are using Lebron James in a lot of our commercials," she said, adding that the latest campaign directed at the Hispanic market centers on telenovelas, with branded integration with "Entertainment Tonight." El said State Farm is also doing a marketing campaign that centers around the theme of "being there," starring the likes of Denzel Washington talking about what it means to "be there" for his wife and kids.
David Jones, global CEO of Havas, said the holding company did a survey 18 months ago, wherein 86% of respondents felt companies should stand for more than profit. "One thing that will change post-Madoff and post-economic crisis is -- consumers are going to be passionate about businesses that are socially responsible," he said, adding that 80% of respondents to the company's 2008 survey said consumers should censure unethical companies.