INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MEDIA: Thinking differently - How do you target CEOs in an innovative and eye-catching way? Rob Gray finds out what really cuts through the clutter

When international business media outlets such as The Wall Street

Journal, Financial Times, The Economist, Business Week, CNN, CNBC and

Bloomberg talk to advertisers about their audience profile, they are

usually quick to cite research that highlights their reach among chief

executive officers. The importance of this small group of corporate

high-achievers is almost an article of faith.

The implication is that if the product is good enough for those at the

top of the pile, it will also be lapped up by those striving to ascend

to the upper echelons of the corporate world. This group would include

the likes of board directors and senior managers, the people who carry

considerable clout, albeit not quite as much as the person at whose desk

the buck stops, ie Mr or Ms Ne Plus Ultra.

More than this, however, CEOs are clearly an attractive audience for

many advertisers. Although their role is a strategic one, their

influence is immense. For instance, while they are unlikely to be

involved directly in the procurement process for their company, their

views will always be taken into account. It would be a brave IT director

who buys IBM hardware when the CEO has expressed an interest in Sun's

product range, without at least explaining why he or she feels the

former is the best option for the company's needs.

Aside from their appeal in a business-to-business context, CEOs are,

thanks to their high disposable incomes, prime targets for advertisers

of consumer products aimed at an affluent audience. The Wall Street

Journal and Financial Times have in recent years introduced weekend

sections with a heavy lifestyle slant. These have been developed not

only to broaden the scope of the editorial at the end of the week, but

to give advertisers a more favourable environment in which to promote

upmarket consumer goods and services to the executive titans.

Into this group we can lump what in the US are now being called the

"c-titles": those at the top of the pile with "chief" in their job

title, such as the chief financial officer, chief operating officer and

the like. In other words, the corporate cream.

But what is the best way of reaching this elite effectively? And can

advertising make much of an impact on these busy folk?

Mark Petersen, the board account director at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO,

whose clients include The Economist and BT Ignite, argues that a great

deal of the advertising that targets the business elite is far too


"A lot of ads go for the lowest common denominator, which is generally

matched by quite sloppy planning," Petersen says. "They begin with

things like 'because you don't have so much time', which is base one

empathy. Or it's a lazy insight along the lines of 'we can make you more


Across Europe, posters have been a favourite medium for advertising The

Economist . But while the UK advertising has been built on clever word

play, strong imagery is used on the Continent as a way of conveying to

business leaders the breadth of the magazine's coverage as well as the

key fact that it is not a dusty economic journal.

In a similar way, the creative work for BT Ignite is centred on strong

visuals. So-called "action words" chosen to reflect the qualities of the

brand were sculpted in neon and then photographed to present a powerful


This thinking is far removed from the traditional approach of

advertising to CEOs in which dry layouts and monochrome were judged a

safe way of engineering a sense of gravitas - with little in the way of


Some feel, however, that advertising in this area could be far


Grey's chairman and chief creative officer, Tim Mellors, is scathing

about airport posters that use symbols such as watches and pens,

describing them as " weak and pathetic". He says: "We see CEOs as a

rarefied breed but my experience of them is that the conversation is on

a very human level. The role they have belies the ordinariness of the

individual. Of course, they are consumers too."

St Luke's co-founder, Andy Law, says: "I'm not aware of much advertising

that makes me think someone has seen right into the head of a CEO and

understood the problems they are facing. The quick response is that they

are ordinary people, but it's a pretty unordinary job."

Young & Rubicam has carried out research into targeting senior business

people across Europe. Jim Williams, its executive director, strategy and

research for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, feels that it is

important to note that this group of people are not homogeneous.

According to Y&R's research, the group has two principal mindsets:

"succeeders" and "reformers". The succeeders' main values centre on

control, stability and duration. So the brands they choose need to say

"I am successful", "I lead", "I'm here to stay", Williams claims.

The reformers' values, meanwhile, are concerned with self-fulfilment and

self-expression. Y&R concluded that these people like to "indulge in

life's most interesting and finest", wanting to be innovative and

progressive in their thinking, being and, ultimately, buying behaviour.

According to Y&R's estimates, 60 per cent of high earners fall into the

succeeders category, with the remaining 40 per cent being reformers.

Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper has targeted CEOs and other business figures with

its advertising for Credit Suisse Group. Its ads had to run all over the

world, appealing to people from a rich variety of cultures who speak

many different languages. So a simple, clear message that was relevant

to all was needed together with powerful branding. Making use of the

group's corporate colours, blue and red, the agency developed a graphic

idea that provided intrinsic branding in both TV and print.

As with all advertising, argues Mark Wnek, the executive creative

officer of Euro RSCG, the way to grab a CEO's attention is with

imaginative, original, appealing, arresting and relevant work. However,

ads should not aim for stand-out at any cost, says Wnek, who feels that

pan-European advertising will work for this audience.

"It's certainly true that good pan-European campaigns are harder to

achieve than national ones because there is often a multiplicity of

client decision-makers involved. The more people there are involved, the

more opinions there are likely to be about advertising," Wnek says. "But

that's changing too as business becomes inevitably more regional and

global and more companies are centralising control of major areas of

their business, such as the marketing strategy. There are already quite

a few examples of first-rate pan-regional campaigns, and I believe that

trend will increase. Don't forget, too, that great advertising works

just about anywhere and everywhere."


Until 1998, Winterthur International, the risk management company, never

had to actively market itself. So when its parent the Winterthur Group,

the insurance company, decided to spin off the business as a separate

unit, it discovered that the brand was practically unknown to most of

its Fortune 1000 target market.

Winterthur International also found when its brand was recognised, it

was perceived as a traditional insurer for property, casualty and

employee benefits.

It also faced the problem that risk management was perceived as a

cost-cutting tool and products in the sector had become increasingly


Since 1998, however, innovative ART (alternative risk transfer)

solutions had been developed in order to cover all risks. These new risk

solutions had to be explained to not only risk managers but also CEOs

and chief financial officers.

Communication Strategy

The main objective of Winterthur International was to become one of the

top five corporate insurers, focusing on Europe. In order to achieve

this goal, the company's agency, McCann-Erickson, decided to redefine

the category.

The challenge was to shift the positioning of Winterthur International

from a conservative insurance supplier to an innovative business

consultant covering total risk management.

External as well as internal communication was the main brand-building

device. At the same time, the task was to appeal to executive board

members, while not alienating the traditional decision-makers - the risk


Creative Strategy

Because of limited time and resources, the creative concept had to

catapult the company to the level of a top international corporate


The main target group has to read a lot and had to take into account

that 98 per cent of all communicated information is not remembered. At

the same time, the ART solutions are complicated and are bespoke for

each client.

In order to overcome these difficulties, the company decided to use

famous personalities, experts in their fields, who had all taken a lot

of risks in their lives, to front the campaign. Nothing about the

solutions of Winterthur International was mentioned, but a single line

at the bottom of each ad leads to the internet, where the necessary

information can be found.

Creative Execution

Richard Avedon photographed the campaign and a range of personalities

including Niki Lauda, Giovanni Agnelli, Mario Botta, Lord Yehudi

Menuhin, Maurice Bejart, Jose Carreras, Lord Attenborough and Jody

Williams were invited to participate.

The ads were shot as portraits against a stark black background and two

TV commercials, one with Niki Lauda and one with Archbishop Desmond

Tutu, were filmed in a similar manner to convey the same mood and


The quality of execution united with the class of photography brought

new opportunities for the brand: an annual "Winconference" summit, a

photography exhibition and even a recording with Yehudi Menuhin. The ads

appeared in selected pan-European business publications with a high

affinity to the target group. The TV commercials appeared on

international business TV channels and there was support within specific

business shows such as Moneyline and World Business Today.

In addition, a comprehensive website and new brochures were developed,

in conjunction with relationship-building activities, such as CDs, a

calendar and a new corporate design manual.

Daniel M Isenegger, the head of corporate communications at Winterthur

International, said:"This campaign was about maximum impact at

reasonable costs. Our budget gives the impression of being ten times

more extensive than it really is. In some cases, contracts are being

signed exclusively because of this campaign. Finally, the campaign has

motivated Winterthur International's employees, as well as strengthening

the Winterthur brand as a whole."

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