Boeing TV Campaign = Poster Child for Old School Marketing

You’ve heard me opine that old school marketing tactics just will not cut it anymore.  I’ve come across a campaign from Boeing that is a poster child for this type of marketing.  Many of you know that I don’t currently have a traditional television feed, rather I watch everything online (e.g., Hulu, iTunes, etc.). 

boeing-logoWell, I’m a huge fan of David Gregory and his show, Meet the Press.   I download this show every Sunday free from the iTunes podcast store.  I’m grateful for this being free and part of the reason it is free is because of sponsors like Boeing.  Hence, Boeing is doing a good thing by progressively finding new mediums (podcasts) to place their branding.  Since I’m grateful to Boeing for helping to enable this supply of content, I’m giving them some free advice today.

Free Advice to Boeing and Other Traditional Advertisers:

I readily admit that I know almost nothing about the airplane supplier business.  But, what I do know is that I’m not buying an airplane anytime soon; unless I sell 100,000 more copies of my book 🙂

1.  If there are only two major suppliers of Airplanes (Boeing/Airbus) I’m pretty sure that the handful of buyers that exist in the universe to purchase these planes are well aware of the product offerings.  It isn’t like a package good product where it may be news that a new soap just came on the market.

2.  The same audience downloads the Meet the Press podcast every week so showing the same 30 second commercial is not only dumb, but really annoying for the viewer.  With technology it’s easy to develop inexpensive versions of the commercial.  Why not a series of “Fast Facts” or trivia  type commercials touting the products differences, benefits.  This gives viewers a tangible piece of evidence that they can discuss at the cocktail party or better yet publish on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

3.  Is a television or iTunes media buy really the best way to target the airplane buyer?  As my wife shouts every time the commercial plays  – “Honey can we buy a Boeing Today?”  There are only a handful of airplane buyers, why would you spend $100,000 plus on producing a commercial and then 10x that on the media buy in the hopes of reaching one of 50 buyers?  This commercial screams of someone in marketing at Boeing wanting a fancy commercial, and why not, it’s fun and easy.  After all, what’s easier than producing one commercial over the course of a year and then having your agency buy media spots?  Unfortunately, this is called marketing to yourself my friend.

So what should Boeing be doing?  They do have a Facebook Fan Page which is the step in the right direction with 4,951 fans.  Airbus has a fan page with 11,746 fans.  There are no posts/messages on the Wall of Boeing’s fan page, so they might as well have 0 fans.  There are a few discussion posts.  Airbus has tons of posts, but they are all from Airbus (shouting – which may be worse). 

Boeing should look to leverage social media to have an ongoing dialogue with engineers/technicians.  What do they like, what would they improve?  For the average traveler they should take  page from Intel (Intel Inside) and explain to the end user why they should care which plane they are getting on.  This can be done with some hard work in social media.  At least Boeing has a Twitter account @boeingairplanes.  This account is currently protected (requires you send a request to follow) – which will limit the number of followers, but if the return is I get more inside product knowledge than that may be a worthwhile payoff for the privacy hurdle.

The biggest advice I can give Boeing is to start having conversations with your buyers, engineers and passengers both online and offline, rather than hoping to reach one of the few buyers with a fancy :30 second commercial.

That being said, the commercial isn’t completely useless, because I did write about it in this column 😉

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38 responses to “Boeing TV Campaign = Poster Child for Old School Marketing

  1. “That is what I have been trying to scream from the top of the mountain – ”

    There is no mountaintop anymore.

  2. @ Byron: Another phenomenon of the social media space is the use of “provocative” and “interesting” when what’s actually meant is “ridiculous” and “misinformed”. Quite simply, if I offered the advice to any of my clients that Eric just did in this post, I’d be asked off the account. Why? Because I was clearly misinformed about their audience and the the role of social media in the communications mix. And I had just offered up ridiculous advice. When you’re dealing with the client’s money, it’s not provocative and interesting at all.

    @ Eric: “… thanks for taking the time to comment… a cord of healthy debate. Have a good one!” Seriously? You have people that care enough to engage with you, to disagree with you, to challenge you, and that’s what we get? Again, this is another problem common to so many social media “experts”, they talk a good game but don’t play themselves. You wrote, “The biggest advice I can give to Boeing is to start having conversations…” — looks like you could use some of your own advice.

    In the end, I came to your blog because of an interesting tweet. If I had learned something or read something insightful, I would’ve most likely bought your book (or re-tweeted at the least). Even after disagreeing with you, an engaging answer could have changed my impression. And then I still might have bought your book. Now, I doubt I ever will.

    And there’s the rub with social — it used to be that if somebody had a bad experience they told ten people. Now, they tell ten thousand.

  3. One more comment:

    I agree with those that have noted that the commercial is about promoting brand awareness, rather than directly selling anything. It’s also about something else, which I’ll call “advertising as prophylactic.”

    Boeing knows that, on any given day, one of its jets could mysteriously or not so mysteriously drop out of the air and awful things could result. By continually making an effort to nurture a positive vibe with consumers, they’re insulating themselves from future pr disasters. As a consumer, I’m much more likely to respond to calamitous circumstances if the brand associated with those circumstances is one I like, rather than one I have never heard of…

  4. Much media advertising revenue is not to sell products but to provide a cash kickback to the corporation which owns that media channel. So for example if Boeing wants to transfer some cash to pay off GE (who own NBC) one easy way is to buy some expensive prime-time advertising.

  5. As a huge proponent of new media and most things net, I nonetheless cringe at writings such as this post. Echoing what’s already been said, I suggest to you that there’s more than a little arrogance in the thinking expressed in this post. Social media in its new online forms has untold values. That certainly doesn’t make it good for everything.

    In any case, don’t you think that this company certainly does have a wide variety of crowdsourcing initiatives? There’s engineering collaboration across countries and companies, deep customer relationships and so on. Some of this is happening online, but also just in the usual offline ways. Before writing your last paragraph did you try emailing or try using the… the… yes… the telephone?

    Erik, you seem to have some education to offer valuable to those needing to understand many new ways of doing things. But your single lens perspective and – perhaps worse – apparent complete disregard for facts undermines your credibility.

    Your blog title: “Boeing TV Campaign = Poster Child for Old School Marketing” should have been, “My Current Post = Poster Child for New Media Echo Chamber Arrogance.” It does no more to close the gap in understanding than the alleged behaviors you ascribe to old media.


  6. I suppose Boeing wouldn’t be advertising on Meet The Press if Boeing didn’t think it was getting value for its money.

    I would like to hear from Boeing if they believe they are indeed getting value from advertising on MTP and believe they are influencing support among investors and government officials for its product.

    I would presume Boeing would answer: yes.

    I have to agree that I’m not sure social media would be the most effective tool for Boeing to help them sell more planes. But I like the fact that Erik wrote this post. It’s provocative (obviously, it generated quite a few comments) and he’s also trying to show how social media can be used for almost any industry to impact its bottom line. The barrier to entry in using social media tools is very low so who’s to say that one day an airline industry looking to sell more planes might not embrace social media as a means for doing so.

    • Byron – thanks for taking the time to comment – you are right it seems to have struck a cord of healthy debate. Have a good one!

      • No responses to multiple well-written criticisms but a “hey thanks” to the positive comment? That’s disappointing. If I post that 1 +1 now equals 3 is that provocative or wrong? I’d appreciate your feedback on other valid comments.

      • CLC: Thanks for the comment – I will try and get to the more complex questions/posts this weekend as my travel schedule finally dies down a bit.

  7. MATT is absolutely right on this one.

  8. I don’t know how to say this without being patronizing, but the problem isn’t with Boeing, but with Digital. All too often people in the digital business have little or no background offline and just assume that people who do are idiots.

    A lot of wisdom was earned over the 50 years before digital, but digital people all too often want to not only ignore lessons learned, but actually deride them. Products with long product cycles have a buying process that is infinitely more complex than Digital people generally assume (because Digital has generally been used as a direct response medium). By not being able to answer to a variety of briefs, not just direct response but also address issues like brand awareness, brand attributes, consideration for purchase, etc, the industry leaves a lot of money on the table.

    A good example is the over-reliance on ROI. Now that social marketing taking off, ROI is much harder to define. The world, it turns out, isn’t just about immediate response, it’s considerably more complicated.

    Now, I have no idea why Boeing wanted to do with their ad, but if you think it was to sell airplanes, you’re being foolishly dismissive. They might have been advertising to investors , government employees, juries in an upcoming trial, potential employees or all of the above. Clearly they were not trying to sell airplanes.

    – Greg

    P.S. If anybody is interested, you can read two related posts:

    5 Things “New Media” can learn from “Old Media”

    And “What Advertiser Want”

  9. It’s not often that your hear passengers debating the virtues of the different plane brands – or engine types for that matter (though they may wax lyrical on the models).

    Perhaps Boeing are trying to raise the visibility of their product on the general market. This would then hopefully boost customer opinion of their aeroplanes as people become more savvy in differentiating between them and the competition.

    Combine this with recent bad press for AirBus and consumers might be more inclined to prefer Boeing aeroplanes over the competition. This would then favour the airlines who supplied the planes, and eventually effect their bottom dollar.

    It’s an interesting technique that I suspect they traditionally would not have risked. I can only imagine it would be hard to gauge the success of such an ad, but have decided it was worth the risk.

    Social media is a marketing revolution, but in this case I think Boeing made a good move in using TV as their medium. That said, I live in Oz, so I haven’t actually seen the commercial. Hmmm… is it really that bad?

  10. I think your reaction to the commercial on Meet the Press is right on! Of course it’s about selling airplanes, increasing stockholders and building a brand – that all goes without saying. Which is why you of course didn’t “miss” anything about the spot, you got it, you just don’t care and why should you ?

    What you are saying that is different is that “building a brand” no longer requires the same tools it used to. People are now communicating about these types of things and if a company is smart, they are reading the threads. With the internet, these types of thoughts can be shared and common touchstones (and annoyances) can be shared and commiserated about.

    Executives (yea in many cases that same dumb ones that are running good companies into the ground every day) usually are the LAST to get it when things change. People are sick of repeat commercials over and over on TV. And with TIVO we no longer have to watch them there! (thank goodness!!).

    We are not thinking about your “brand building” when our spouses say to us “Honey are we in the market for a Boeing today?”. We are thinking about our lives and how stupid your commercial comes across to us in that moment.

    However…if you are offering us something we need, want, should want, or covet then we’ll listen – but you have to pique our interest first, not annoy us. To this end, Boeing misses the quick scratch test (annoying TV spots are not improving your brand guys, they are just annoying us!). You are right that they should take the time to create a different kind of ad – ala viral videos. Those are the “new media” and they are either funny, informative or emotional and they are not the same ‘ol same ‘ol.

    If you think the times have changed in the financial markets, automotive markets, mortgage markets and more….the advertising market is one step behind. You guys are the next to go. Companies do not need to spend that kind of money anymore on TV spots that people are not watching anyway – and I expect those budgets to start drying up in the near future – if they are not already. The times are changing and all you MAD MEN out there need to change too. Like everything else, change or die.

  11. that ad is designed to sell and hence raise their stock price period.

  12. After reading all these comments, I think we have a long way to go in understanding the role of social media in promoting a brand. I agree that it is just another tool in advertising, marketing and integrated social networking.

    Clearly, there are those that understand what Boeing was doing and what the Socialnomics article overlooked. But if taken from the perspective of the common person, I agree that they would ask the same question: “Why is Boeing advertising on Meet The Press? Who is going to buy an airplane because of this commercial?”

    I asked myself that same question when I first saw the commercial, but after reflecting on the purpose and audience, I realized the real reason behind it, thought “how brilliant!” and now have a deeper respect for the Boeing brand.

    Social media is a ripple in the pond that helps continue the conversation, but with a clear strategy to have brought social networks into the fold, Boeing might have grown the brand and its reputation even further.

    Then again, for the most part, government agencies and its employees are not allowed to be on social networks. Just another tidbit that the Socialnomics article failed to notice.

  13. Yes, social media is more than a fad, but I have to agree with everyone else here: you’re being pretty naive about Boeing’s purposes for advertising on Meet the Press. Matt and Tom are almost certainly correct in that it is meant to influence institutional investors and government decision makers. Another issue you completely ignore is the fact that social media (like PR) will never provide a complete marketing communications solution because it is inherently uncontrollable. If your brand becomes a trending topic on Twitter that’s great, but you wouldn’t be smart to give me a money-back guarantee that your blogging campaign will make that happen. On the other hand, Boeing did have the equivalent of a money-back guarantee that their commercial on Meet the Press would reach a certain amount of people of a certain demographic, who happen to be very important to Boeing’s viability as a commercial enterprise.

  14. Wow… I wouldn’t want you running any of my PR or Advertising campaigns in the future if you missed Boeing’s intentions. They obviously are not marketing to you nor to a plane buyer. I can’t believe you missed this.

    Many companies advertise the brand as a way to give it positive exposure, especially with government agencies. They are not necessarily trying to sell something, but support the brand. Go back to Advertising 101 and they will teach you this. *nods head*

  15. One thing not mentioned is reaching potential employees, who will number in their thousands.

    As I’m sure you’re aware, because you mention it in the book, social media has a massive role to play in recruitment. LinkedIn and search, in particular.

    But it doesn’t really matter if you can find me on social media and offer me a job if I haven’t heard of you, or, more pertinently in Boeing’s case, have any idea of what kind of person you employ.

    So this kind of placement may well be part of a wider branding and awareness campaign that also ensures the next generation of engineers etc. view Boeing as a technologically innovative company through use of the medium itself. After all, that’s what will appeal most to an audience of technically-minded potential employees.

  16. Another myopic view that social media is the answer to everything. Ironically, this is the same argument that is often leveled at “traditional” media. As noted above, there are a number of reasons why Boeing has chosen to run TV ads. But rather than restate what has already been said, the most alarming (yet increasing common) measure of a company’s social media strategy is whether or not it has Facebook Fan Page. Or tweets regularly. Really? Is that what it has come down to? What about the message?

    Using your own argument, do you really think the people with the money to buy a plane spend their time on Facebook friending people, checking out each other’s wall, throwing snowballs and poking each other? Come on. Let’s take an honest look at demographics (using Meet the Press as an indicator) and ask ourselves if the time invested in properly maintaining a Facebook page is going to produce any meaningful ROI. Probably not.

    I’m not saying social media isn’t a useful tool (set of tools, actually), but it’s just one part of a sound communications strategy. Unless, of course, you’re selling a book about social media, in which case it’s the only strategy, I suppose.

    • Jebediah:

      Thanks for reading the post and taking the time to comment.

      I don’t feel that social media is the panacea for everything and point this out in the book. If I gave this impression in this post than shame on me for poor writing.

      I agree with you that the # of Fans on Fan Page don’t matter – what matters is the number of engagements you are able to have and actionable items to adjust your product/service to make it better for the end user and is why I recommend to Boeing to engage with the engineers/buyers to understand what they need to do with the Boeing products they purchase to make them suit their needs.

      There are definitely positive aspects of running a commercial on MTP, I just feel the money could be better spent elsewhere.

  17. Interesting that a blog dedicated to new media would fail to recognize the obvious fact that this commercial’s goal is to build brand recognition rather than boosting sales. Sure, you won’t buy a Boeing today, but you might pick a airline that flies with planes you trust more…

    • Rivera: Thanks for the post. I believe there still is a place for brand marketing in this new world, it is just going to be a smaller part of the marketing mix and it will also take on new forms (consumers will take more and more ownership of brands).

      In the article I point out that Boeing could take the Intel approach about making you care what is inside your computer. Boeing could make consumers care more about the type of plane they get on – I’d argue that most don’t right now. If that’s the case if they are to advertise on a MTP podcast they should have messaging about safety/comfort – not just beauty shots of the plane.

      Thanks for the post!

  18. Company’s use ads for more than targeting potential customers. They use them to increase visibility with all audiences…for example potential investors (intstitutional and retail). They are a means to increase visibility and also corporate reeputation – sometimes through association with the show they support.

    So, while you might not be in the market for a new plane today, you might make enough money off their stock some day to actually buy one.

    • I hope I make enough money one day to buy a plane!

      Agreed that this type of marketing can influence investors. While I don’t base my investment decisions on who has the best commercial – I’m sure some do.

      I would just argue that advertising on Meet the Press isn’t the most efficient way to accomplish this. I do like that they have branched out to advertise on podcasts like MTP, but they must understand that the same audience downloads and watches this each week so they need to stop airing the commercial after the 6x frequency (or whatever frequency is determined to be effective saturation to increase brand awareness to Boeing’s satisfaction – this number will generally be determined by third party aided/unaided brand awareness studies). Of course the ability for the audience to “block” these commercials needs to be factored in as well and that’s difficult to do. One huge benefit of it being a podcast however is that it is easier to track audience eyeballs and viewing patterns – so Kudos to Boeing in this arena.

      Agreed that these commercials aren’t worthless – just maybe not money well spent.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Equalman,

        You should really quit when you’re just a little bit behind.

        In reference to your response to dinag:

        It may be a technical point, but there is no such thing as 6x reach. There can be 6x frequency, or say 60% 3+ reach (or more recently, reach at discreet frequencies, such as 3x or 3-5), but reach refers to number of people, not frequency of exposure.

        Moreover, Frequency is never media specific, but applies to the campaign as a whole. For TV, it is almost always defined per week. Therefore, the frequency of this ad would be 1x. By your reasoning, any sponsorship at all would be ineffective because the same audience repeats. Yet, it is a tactic that has been effectively employed for years.

        In any case, how do you know how much frequency they need? The research on frequency in Digital is scant, if it exists at all. (TV, however has been heavily researched and frequency requirements are highly situational).

        Furthermore, how do you know whether it is efficient or not if you don’t know what they paid for it or if they even paid for it at all? It’s quite possible that the web advertising was thrown in as a sweetener for a bigger deal. Maybe Boeing sponsored a Golf tournament and the web video was included.

        Finally, if you saw the same ad that I did, the message emphasized everything Boeing does outside of building airplanes, like space exploration.

        So, let’s evaluate. You don’t know the target, the price, the coverage, the frequency nor do you even seem to be familiar with basic terminology. Yet you still stick to your guns. It’s a bit insulting.

        I don’t mean to be overly critical, but your “free advice” does seem to be poor value for money.

        You seem to be quite knowledgeable in your field and seem to be on the brink of enormous success. Why do you insist on making shrill commentary on something you obviously know so little about?

        – Greg

      • Greg:

        Thanks for the post and for the passion behind your post. To your one sentence:

        “Yet, it is a tactic that has been effectively employed for years.”

        That is what I have been trying to scream from the top of the mountain – this is a new era! When I worked on the agency side doing commercials for Pontiac and Cadillac back in the early 90’s and running them on the Super Bowl, Beveraly Hills 90210, etc. this was deemed “effective” at the time. Now that 90% of people that have the ability to skip a commercial do skip the commercial then there is something inherently flawed with this model. Only 14% trust ads while 78% trust their peers. People no longer want to be shouted at. Now if it’s true that 90% are skipping the commercial then companies are holding out hope that the remaining 10% find their message relevant, however not everyone in this 10% audience is an investor, gov’t official, or has the capacity to buy a plane. Hence there is a ton of “waste” with this scattered approach.

        I do give kudos to Boeing for airing this on a podcast which are less likely to be fast forwarded and as you mention it may have been thrown in with another media buy. Although one could argue when you buy one get one free yogurt at the grocery store it’s really a 50% discount.

        Thanks again for reading and for commenting. Also thanks for the positive feedback “ seem to be quite knowledgeable in your field and seem to be on the brink of enormous success…”

        I changed my frequency/reach typo.. but thanks for pointing this out.

        Have a good weekend.

      • Equalman,

        Maybe you should stop screaming, calm down and think things through. (I seem to remember somebody saying something about people not wanting to be shouted at…who was that?)

        First of all, I said nothing about Superbowl commercials, so I’m a bit puzzled about why you brought them up. I said sponsorships, which like most things, have had big successes and some failures and most somewhere in between.

        However, since you brought it up…

        Super Bowl Ads can be very effective because it is simply the most watched TV event. You get massive coverage with a frequency of one. There is really no other opportunity like that anymore (and hasn’t been since my “Fonzie” shirt got frayed and my mom threw it away).

        Moreover there are big Superbowl success stories. The Apple Macintosh was launched with a TV ad that was shown just once…on the Superbowl. I imagine the Budweiser ads have been successful as well (but haven’t seen any data so I really don’t know).

        Of course, a lot of Superbowl ads get bought because senior executives want a super box and some time on the field. So, if that is the goal I guess they are effective as well. (I wouldn’t want to judge just in case anybody is ever stupid enough to make me a senior executive at a major corporation:-) But again, Superbowl ads can be used effectively, the fact that they are sometimes used for reason that you or I might now agree with doesn’t say anything about the medium itself.

        (Just to be clear, I agree with all things that get me Superbowl tickets).

        Oh, and btw. theoretically ads that are skipped don’t show up in the ratings and therefore don’t cost money. But that is more of an issue with the archaic TV research in the US which really isn’t worth going into.

        Finally, who knows if Boeing was targeting investors? Maybe it was jury members, potential employees, or maybe the CEO’s mother was on her dying bed and just wanted once to see Sonny’s commercial on a Sunday morning transmitted to her I-Pod. I have no idea and neither do you.

        Anyway, my point is that if you build a reputation as an expert, you really shouldn’t make shrill comments about things you don’t know much about.

        Btw. I recently started a blog and wrote a post about this one. You can read it at:

        It was quite popular so, if nothing else, you helped out a poor guy on the wrong side of the “Iron Curtain.” Kudos bra!

        – Greg

        P.S. Have you ever read Wittgenstein? You might want to start here:

      • Greg:

        I’m glad that this post has helped your blog on the other side of the “Iron Curtain” always good to see an international social exchange such as this produce a healthy ROI (e.g., traffic to your blog). Thanks for taking the time to read, post a comment and engage in a healthy debate. Have a great weekend. Thanks, Erik

  19. I’m pretty sure Boeing didn’t become a $32B company because they don’t know how market/sell their product… Given the level of involvement in buying a $100m plane I think its safe to say that their sales are driven entirley by experienced sales execs, and I doubt they would benefit from a twitter convo anymore than they would from the commercial you are crucifying…

    Did you ever stop to think, in your infinite wisedom that perhaps the commercial is serving another communication purpose? Like perhaps Investor Relations… especially since you found the commercial on Meet the Press!

    • Jesse:

      Thanks for your comment. I’d argue that people invest in stock to get a return on their investment. To get this return companies need to invest wisely across their business. This includes their marketing spend. I agree with you that this commercial might influence some investors, I just don’t think it’s the most efficient way to do this.

      Thanks for your comment!

  20. I’m not sure Boeing’s sole purpose for advertising is to reach jet buyers. If that were the case, I would wholeheartedly agree with your view. That said, Boeing is a public company that trades over 3 million shares a day. I suspect they are using advertising as means of building their brand among a number of stakeholders…investors, particularly retail investors being one of those constituents. One could argue that advertising to investors may not be the most efficient means of communicating, however, on some levels it is effective.

    • Tom: Agreed that on some levels this commercial is effective in reaching certain types of investors. However, I agree most with your last statement that this may not be the most efficient way to do this.

      Thanks for the post and for taking a different angle when looking at this topic.

  21. Boeing isn’t advertising on Meet the Press to sell private planes. Rather, they are investing in the communications medium to to positively influence support. Those who watch MTP (like me), tend to be engaged in democracy; and Boeing’s largest clients are government agencies.

    • John the airplane plumber

      Matt got it pretty right (while, may I say, you seem pretty opaque if not naive).

      Boing is building “american” image for american orders be they gov or privts.

  22. enjoyed the post. I wish we could get away from PR agencies control certain aspects of social media

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