LinkedIn’s TV Commercial: Brilliant Move or Desperate Moonshot?

LinkedIn sign-in page with Who Am I?

I don’t know what’s more curious–that LinkedIn is running a television ad or that the global professional network is choosing to do so during an event widely criticized for its lack of diversity.

You’re Closer than You Think, according to Nick Bartle, LinkedIn’s marketing vice president, is part of a larger campaign the company has planned to let viewers know exactly what LinkedIn is. He says (in re/code’s LinkedIn article) “There are labels that kick around. There’s ‘the Facebook for professionals.’ ‘The online Rolodex.’ ‘The place to post your resume.’ In every instance, we feel we’re not just those things, we’re so much more than that.”

Okay, I understand that reasoning, but does the commercial do the job? Watch for yourself:

The concept for this ad arose from LinkedIn’s December 14 tweet about NASA hiring an astronaut–to date, their most popular tweet ever.

Bartle explains why they transformed that tweet into a TV ad: “The astronaut is a universal symbol for the dream job. We want to show people the tools we’ve got that will enable them to take a step closer to their own personal moonshot.”

Great sentiment, but I think the commercial falls flat. Sarcastic me wants to say it’s because they based their decision on “Well, people liked the tweet,” but I’ll focus instead on the two problems that instantly pop in my mind:

  1. “3 million LinkedIn members qualify.” As soon as I saw this appear in the ad, I thought maybe it was targeting recruiters instead. But based on what Bartle said and on the beginning of the script, they’re targeting job seekers, probably trying to get more millennials to join.
  2. Why is LinkedIn reverting to their old reputation as a place to get a job? And, wait…what tools? The ad wasn’t long enough to show tools.

I hope their intention to show people the tools they have means the rest of the campaign will be more effective. Right now, the ad simply seems to be a waste of money.

That Sinking Feeling

Speaking of money, LinkedIn’s shares have been tanking lately, as examined in TechCrunch’s LinkedIn Problems Run Deeper Than Valuation. And that makes me wonder if this isn’t LinkedIn’s own desperate moonshot.

As TechCrunch reports:

…Only one-quarter of LinkedIn members use the site every month. This low level of engagement has made the product less and less useful for recruiting.

Uh-oh. Now I see why they’ve created an ad that targets job seekers (and kind of recruiters). If they lose recruiters now, they’re toast.

So, we’ve established that “desperate moonshot” is the answer here. Now, what about that time slot?

Banking on the Revenant?

In 2015, the Oscars drew 36.6 million viewers–the lowest performance among adults 18-49 since 2008 and the lowest viewership since 2009. But 36.6 million is still a good number, right?

Okay, well what about the millennials LinkedIn seems to be targeting? Millennials barely even watch traditional TV let alone the Oscars, as summed up perfectly in USA Today’s Voices from Campus article from 2015:

I feel completely irrelevant to the process,” said Ian Cashwell, a 2013 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University. “It’s people in the film industry picking other people in the film industry. To me it feels kind of like watching another country’s elections.

LinkedIn prides itself on being a diverse, global network too, just like the Oscars…except, um, the awards show is not exactly that diverse, as you may have heard.

So, what’s up LinkedIn?

Advertising Age gives a little more insight in their February 24 article in which marketing VP Bartle says, “You’re Closer Than You Think is LinkedIn’s first-ever integrated marketing campaign and TV spot that’s inspired by LinkedIn’s vision to create economic opportunity for the global workforce.”

Bartle also explains why they chose the Oscars, saying, “We believe that everyone should pursue the biggest goals imaginable. There are moments when those accomplishments are celebrated, and we believe the Oscars is one of those moments.”

I still think the Oscars are the wrong place to draw in a new audience and the lack of diversity conflicts with LinkedIn’s global membership. But I get that the big idea is to show how LinkedIn can help people reach their potential. They haven’t executed on that idea fully yet, but we’ll see.

Of course (sarcastic me is back again), there may be another reason they chose the Oscars this year. Ever look up what “revenant” means? I imagine many of you did after wondering why Leo DiCaprio was starring in a movie of that odd name. It means “a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.

With dire predictions hammering them right now, LinkedIn is definitely trying to return to its former glory. There’s a ton of potential there. I hope they do find new life, and I hope their new marketing push ends up being more effective than what it seems.

Tune in and we’ll see.



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