Wall Street Journal’s first Canadian campaign targets CEOs

The U.S. newspaper is reaching out to the country's business leaders through customized billboards - and positioning itself as the paper your boss reads.

When it comes to invitations, some prefer to send private cards through the mail. The Wall Street Journal, however, prefers a slightly less subtle approach: billboards and canvasing.

In its first Canadian marketing campaign, The Wall Street Journal has teamed with creative agency The&Partnership and media agency m/SIX to reach out to high-profile Canadian CEOs through massive “help wanted” ads on billboards throughout major Canadian cities.

The goal, said Ron Smrczek, executive creative director with The&Partnership, is not necessarily to increase Canadian readership but to attract Canadian CEOs to the WSJ‘s invite-only CEO Council — although the exposure to potential readers is an added bonus, positioning WSJ as the kind of paper read in the most elite C-suites.

“We wanted to reach out to these CEOs in a way that would not only attract their attention, but also raise the profile of the Journal in a broader sense — if your boss is reading it, maybe you should be reading it too,” said Smrczek.

The goal is to not simply attract all Canadian CEOs, but specific CEOs — and although WSJ has stayed coy on which CEOs it’s aiming for, the hints are quite strong.

For example, one ad called out a CEO who headed up one of the country’s largest packaged food companies who ideally had a veterinary medicine degree from Belgium, most likely a reference to McCain Foods CEO Dirk Van de Put.

The billboards were placed strategically throughout Toronto, Montreal, Mississauga and Vancouver, with locations chosen strategically with a goal of being in close proximity to each CEO’s corporate head office. In the streets surrounding the billboards, sample copies of the Journal with the ads on the front page were handed out to passersby.

“It’s basically a new generation way of doing a direct mail campaign,” Smrczek told MiC.

Locations for OOH activations already passed include the intersection between Highway 13 and Cote-Vertu Boulevard in Montreal (Oct. 19), the corner of Cambie and West Hastings in Vancouver (Oct. 19), the corner of Adelaide and Spadina in Toronto (Oct. 21), and Derry Road near Millcreek Drive in Mississauga (Oct. 19), with newspapers handed out in Guelph Oct. 18 (but no OOH component due to a lack of availability).

Two poster faces with newspaper sampling  in Toronto’s PATH (Royal Bank Plaza and Metro Hall) will take place Oct. 31.

Following the completion of the activations, the CEOs will be contacted personally. The WSJ‘s CEO council meets annually to discuss the biggest issues shaping the future of business and economics.

The WSJ announced its intention to market more aggressively into the Canadian market earlier this year, according to a representative from the media co. The WSJ identified Toronto as one of its top 10 priority global markets due to the city’s growth and importance on the world stage for business.