LinkedIn takes to TV with 'moon shot' ad

110415blog astronaut flying

Astronaut Bruce McCandless outside Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984.

Credit: NASA

A flashy new TV advertisement from LinkedIn aims to remind its professional users that they are 'closer than they think' to landing their dream job … even if those dreams include space exploration. However, critics have mixed reactions to the ad.

LinkedIn kicked off a new marketing campaign for 2016 with its first broadcast TV commercial, which aired during last weekend's 88th annual Academy Awards. The company behind the 14-year-old social network for professionals says it wants to find new ways to connect with its 414 million registered users. The "You're Closer Than You Think" ad is an attempt to raise global awareness of the platform's career enhancing possibilities, according to Nick Bartle, LinkedIn's vice president of member marketing and communications.

"We believe that everyone has the potential to achieve their own definition of success, their 'moonshot,' you just need to reach out and grab the opportunity in front of you," he says. "The campaign is designed to bring to life the idea that we believe everyone has the potential to succeed, and that LinkedIn exists to help you find it." 

"You're Closer Than You Think" is part of a long-term effort to shift LinkedIn's marketing focus to fewer, bigger initiatives that speak to universal member needs and make the platform more useful, according to Bartle.

LinkedIn wants to help find your 'moonshot'

After crunching some of its data, LinkedIn learned that more than 3 million U.S. LinkedIn users potentially qualify to become astronauts, and the company set out to find more "moon shots" in other industries. "We were inspired, and after looking at more data, we realized that many of those moonshots are actually within reach for our members," Bartle says.

The universal theme of LinkedIn's campaign is that the social network can be a bridge between the dream jobs its users seek and their ability to actually land those jobs, according to Doug Schumacher, cofounder of social media content strategy tool Zuum

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LinkedIn has been inconsistent with its marketing messages in the past, and this new effort is a step in the right direction, according to Schumacher. "The tagline is aspirational and gives hope," he says. "With LinkedIn's past explorations into Groups and Pulse, they've seemed to be complicating the message around what the brand is really about, so it's good that they're planting this directional stake in the ground."

However, instead of focusing on the pools of potential candidates for one-in-a-million type jobs, such as the astronaut role, LinkedIn could have highlighted how users' networks of connections can help land their ideal jobs, he says.

LinkedIn should focus on data, not flashy ads

The new campaign represents a strategic marketing shift for LinkedIn, but the company is not as focused on its users as its new messaging suggests, according to Mike O'Neil, president of Integrated Alliances, a consultancy that specializes in training for managers, marketers and sales professionals. "I think LinkedIn's focus is nearly 180 degrees off from where it should be," says O'Neil, who has used LinkedIn for more than 12 years. "It is becoming a publishing platform with a back door into high value targets." 

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LinkedIn users want more professional insights and CRM-type services, but the company has abandoned or relegated many such features to lesser roles, according to O'Neil. While the new ad "may appeal to job seekers and general users who may be entertained by the cool imagery," O'Neil says LinkedIn should instead works on ways to leverage its user data, third-party software integration and other features to expand the overall value of the platform.

This story, "LinkedIn takes to TV with 'moon shot' ad" was originally published by CIO.

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