News organizations can’t bring you the news if you don’t give them the funds to do it — period.
In 2017, The New York Times launched a brand campaign series to show people the value of their subscription dollars. The Times’ “The Truth Is Hard” ads told the world why quality journalism matters and reminded readers what their subscriptions pay for: thousands of reporters across the globe working tirelessly to uncover the truths of the world. In 2018, The Times continued its campaign’s momentum with the “The Truth Is Worth It” videos, which brought to light the great lengths its journalists go to get the story.
While The Times’ campaign was finding success, with increased subscriber numbers, many news organizations were still hurting for subscriptions. Many local publications, in particular, were taking a hit and closing, unable to raise the funds necessary to continue running.
With the problem of raising funds still significant, The New York Times had to figure out how to show why it’s important to support not only global news, but local news as well.
We’re The New York Times.
For two weeks, The New York Times ran experiential work in the five boroughs of New York City. Each storefront highlighted a historical story, written by The Times, that had a significant impact on the respective borough. The activations each included a QR code that called up a podcast-like recording. In the recordings, Times journalists walked readers through their experiences and trials in reporting the corresponding story.
The activations covered an array of topics. The one in Brooklyn illustrated the story of a Brooklyn homicide detective who was accused of using fake confessions to put innocent men behind bars. The Bronx storefront depicted inequality practiced in the city’s elite public schools. Additionally, all the stories highlighted in the installations have taken place within the last five years, pointing out that, even in the present day, there are hard-hitting injustices that must be uncovered and reported by dedicated journalists.
“The Truth Is Local” installations were inspired by Droga5’s latest “The Truth Is Worth It” campaign ad, which details how reporters Brian M. Rosenthal, Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Michael LaForgia uncovered how corruption in New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority led to the system’s failures back in 2017. Based on the ad, The New York Times was spurred to see the impact of tailoring the campaign to its local roots and making the ads more tangible.
What they said:
“We’re now in a relationship business, trying to get people to subscribe, but that only happens when the consumer really understands and feels connected to the thing they are buying,” said David Rubin, CMO of The New York Times.
Lessons to be learned:
Take cues from trends. — JWT Intelligence published The Future 100: 2019, a compilation of consumer trends and cultural changes predicted to impact society in the near future. In the report, JWT calls out the growing popularity of interactive pop-ups and Instagrammable installations. In this activation, The New York Times capitalized on this trend and integrated digital technology for engagement.
Make it personal. — When “The Truth Is Hard” campaign first launched, The Times started big. It placed a spotlight on reporters on the ground across the globe who covered stories that impacted humanity as a whole. With “The Truth Is Worth It,” it began to hone in on stories that impacted the United States. Now, the focus has become even more personal, illustrating stories that have impacted New Yorkers’ own community. To promote “local,” the creative work had to be local.
Use the product. — The stories and the journalists featured in the campaign aren’t just a piece of the ads; they are the ads. Each creative is produced as if it’s its own article, but instead of being read on paper, it’s seen on screens, listened to on podcasts and experienced on the streets.