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Studies find CEOs reachable beyond office

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CEOs are people, too. They read publications other than The Wall Street Journal. And they spend more time online than the Luddite CEO stereotype suggests.

These are among the many conclusions drawn from two recent examinations of the media consumption habits of top executives. Both studies of C-level media habits—one by Omnicom ad agency Doremus and the other by Forbes.com—may have ramifications for how b-to-b marketers communicate with top management, a target that many believe grows in importance in times like these when budgets are tight.

With its Doremus Quotient, New York-based Doremus has developed a proprietary technique for analyzing media buys aimed at C-level executives. A key element of the DQ is a "passion index," which attempts to gauge where executives’ passions lie outside of work, how deep these passions are and what media they spend time with to learn more about their interests.

"These guys do have some interests outside of work," said Hope Picker, director of research and planning for Doremus. "People reading a magazine about their hobbies spend more time than someone who’s leafing through Fortune."

Christopher Philip, Doremus senior VP-media director, said the DQ reaches some contrarian conclusions about how best to reach CEOs and other top executives. For instance, the Mendelsohn Affluent Survey, which was conducted by Mendelsohn Media Research, placed Time Top Management, Fast Company and The Robb Report as its top three print publications in terms of top management composition and coverage. DQ’s top three: Golf Digest, Garden Design and Food & Wine.

Similarly, Mendelsohn’s TV list indicates that the best way to reach top management is via the Golf Channel, CNN Headline News and CNBC. DQ’s top three: CNN, ESPN and the Discovery Channel.

Of course, communicating with C-level executives via non-business media is nothing new. Xerox Corp. was a pioneer in b-to-b television advertising in the 1970s, and IBM Corp. and Southwest Airlines are two examples of b-to-b marketers that run spots on sports programming.

The DQ methodology includes analyzing syndicated research, a publication’s own research, competitive factors (such as how willing a publication is to negotiate on ad rates), and Doremus’ own propietary research.

Doremus said its client Ace Group of Cos. has altered its ad placement in line with the DQ. The company, which previously advertised mainly on CNBC and CNN, added Discovery Channel, A&E, Bravo and other cable stations to its media mix. It is too early to gauge how well the expanded media placement is performing.

Internet-savvy execs

According to the study it conducted with GartnerG2 and Survey.com, Forbes.com would recommend that Ace also consider reaching C-level executives via the Internet. The Forbes.com study, which was released March 10, is called "A Day in the Life of CEOs Online." It indicates that the Web is a central medium used by executives, and the Internet appears to be a legitimate channel to reach them with marketing messages.

The online survey, which had 11,350 usable replies (3,865 of which were from C-level executives), queried managers about their daily online habits. Of the C-level executives who responded, 53% said they accessed the Web before work, while just 41% said they read a newspaper before work.

"We found that this audience was on the Web even before they leave the house in the morning," said Jim Spanfeller, president-CEO of Forbes.com. "The most astounding thing for me personally was that more were doing that than reading the newspaper."

Additionally, 82% of C-level respondents said they personally checked their e-mail before starting work. Moreover, 80% of the C-level respondents said they used search engines, and 58% said they did online research.

B-to-b marketers should be buoyed to know that 28% of C-level executives said they "read work-related promotional e-mails from marketers." Additionally, 48% said they clicked on online ads.

What should b-to-b marketers conclude from these findings? "The most efficient way to reach a senior business decision maker is through the Web," Spanfeller said.

However, the Forbes.com survey also found that during their daily commute, 56% of C-level executives listened to the radio—slightly more than the 53% who accessed the Web before work.

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