‘We can’t continue to shout at our customers’: American Express delves deeper into custom content

For the first time in a campaign, American Express is prioritizing custom content with publishers over mass-reach channels.

On Sept. 10, the credit card company is launching its biggest custom content campaign yet. The campaign is running with BuzzFeed, Vox Media and Bustle and is meant to promote the company’s year-old Pay It Plan It feature.

In the past, American Express primarily used mass-reach channels like TV, social and digital, said Terryn Lance, vice-president of global media at American Express.

This time, most of the spend is going toward custom content, in the form of explainer-style articles and videos, content sponsorship and ads appearing alongside content.

American Express chose the outlets for their millennial reach, since that cohort makes up around half of the customers that use Pay It Plan It, Lance said. The editorial content focuses on the four main passion areas of American Express card members: travel, entertainment, home and tech.

“This campaign really flips our approach from a media perspective on its head,” said Lance. “We’ve realized that we can’t continue to shout at our customers with mass-reaching media vehicles and expect them to have some meaningful impact or relationship with us.”

Lance said showing, and not telling, is a better fit to advertise Pay It Plan It, since the feature offers various options, such as designating times to pay off purchases and splitting up payments. Custom content gives the company the time and space need to do so, said Lance. American Express worked with the content teams at each outlet and with ad agency Digitas. The marketer didn’t say how much it’s spending on this campaign or how it compares to previous campaigns.

With BuzzFeed, American Express will be the exclusive launch partner of BuzzFeed Reviews, a product review section launched in August. Along with that, American Express will be the first sponsor of a new show from BuzzFeed’s Tasty called “Friend in Town,” which follows a host to different cities where they visit friends and go on culinary experiences. The show’s host will use the Pay It Plan It feature to plan trips.

For the Vox partnership, American Express is sponsoring a new section on Vox called The Goods by Vox on Sept. 10. American Express is sponsoring 12 editorial videos that start rolling out this month and are working with Vox Creative to produce an Explainer video series all about spending money smartly that will start rolling out in October. The Goods by Vox will also issue a newsletter twice each week. American Express will also be the first sponsor of Vox Media’s Eater’s Kitchen Gadget Test Show, which lays out which kitchen essentials are worth their price.

The Bustle partnership will start in October and consist of custom illustrated articles with advice on making better financial decisions on top of digital banner ads on the site.

American Express said it plans to continue to make custom content a focus in future campaigns because advertisers have to continue to develop new ways to reach consumers and stand out. “Everyone in the media space is facing the same challenges,” she said. “There’s a lot more consumer options and a lot less consumer time.”


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