In an effort to improve its brand in the minds of customers, Bank of America (BAC) has increased its spending on digital marketing — but decreased its investment in traditional outlet including television and print.
“We’re not abandoning any of those forms of media,” BoA head of marketing Claire Huang told an audience at Advertising Age’s Digital Conference. “But we’re realizing that digital not only allows you to provide information, you can have real, live connections. It’s not just a flat little square box you have two seconds to look at.”
Huang was responding to a query from panelist Tim Armstrong, the CEO of AOL, who also talked about his firm’s branding activities. “When I first started at AOL, a lot of people gave me advice to remove the AOL brand from the company,” Armstrong said. “I talked to a lot of different partners, and the fact is there’s a tremendous amount of goodwill behind the brand, which was so unexpected. So we made a decision to stay behind the brand.”
The two companies said the solution was to publish more online content (although using different methods). BoA is increasing its digital presence by harnessing internal efforts like new texting, Twitter, and webcasts rather than spending more on online advertising.
“Traditional advertising of digital like search and banner ads has shrunk a little bit,” Huang said. “We’re actually making our own content because we have the content experts.” For example, Merrill Lynch (a unit of BoA) hired Charlie Gibson to talk about retirement planning on a panel discussion that was webcast from the company’s website.
Armstrong also addressed concerns that such arrangements may cast a shadow on the journalism industry. “My belief is that when you hire a great journalist, you’re hiring their network, and not just their Twitter network; journalists are networks themselves,” he said.
AOL has recently hired many journalists from those recently laid-off by traditional outlets, and the company may be a reporter’s haven. Still, Armstrong added that AOL is also planning content in response to reader requests — a tactic that contrasts with the traditional model of journalism in which the editor and reporter are the experts.
“Content has been historically done in a vacuum,” he said. “So we’re continuing to work on it, so two months from now AOL will be very accurate at producing content. The investments we’re making for improved use of technology for content will be a long-term net positive. I think we’re a great place for journalists. We have church and state at AOL.