This is an entry in our new “Meet the CMOs” feature that will look at the top marketing executives in the nation’s biggest telecom companies. These are the executives who oversee multimillion dollar advertising budgets and are charged with raising their company’s brand profile.
CMO: Jonathan Hargis
Bio: A 16-year cable veteran, Hargis has served as Charter’s CMO since 2012. Before coming to Charter, Hargis spent 12 years with Altice’s predecessor Cablevision. Prior to Cablevision, Hargis served in various leadership roles at AT&T.
Hargis has also influenced marketing practices across the broader cable industry. He served on the board of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) from 2008 to 2012. He also chaired the CTAM board.
Hargis’ most noteworthy effort of late has been rebranding Charter and the former Time Warner Cable and Bright House Communications under the common Spectrum moniker.
How much money does the company spend on advertising? In 2016, Charter spent $1.7 billion on marketing, up from $628 million in 2015, a factor it said is related to being a much larger company. Charter noted in its fourth-quarter earnings report though that marketing expenses declined 5.5% year-over-year in the quarter due to synergies from its purchase of TWC and Bright House. However, expenses grew by 6.1% due to higher advertising sales and enterprise sales costs.
What’s the company’s marketing message? In October 2016, Charter relaunched itself as Spectrum. The new brand was introduced on the back of a national advertising campaign, featuring a rising sun, bright skies and open fields, signaling what Hargis said is a "new look at what a cable company can be.” Charter is seeking to emphasize customer service improvements, simplified pricing models, lack of contract requirements and a greater number of HD channels.
What’s the company’s advertising strategy? Spectrum uses a mix of print and TV as well as regional advertising to tout its brand and identity. The company’s marketing strategy emphasizes the sale of its bundled services through targeted direct response marketing programs to existing and potential customers. The company said its marketing organization creates programs intended to grow customer relationships, increase services per relationship, retain existing customers and cross-sell additional products to current customers.
Further, Charter often takes on its rivals directly in its advertisements. In a recent national TV ad, Charter’s Spectrum cast four monsters discussing everyday issues, including satellite TV problems, while riding the subway. During the spot, the Grim Reaper tells his fellow monster friends after sending a text: “Sorry, the kids are going bananas. Satellite dish went out in the rain again.”
And following Google Fiber’s recent troubles, Charter began running ads in Kansas City newspapers with the banner headline “Abandoned by Google.”
Is the company’s advertising successful? The Spectrum brand, according to BrandIndex, is seeing some momentum. However, it appears the company has more work ahead of itself to drive brand awareness. According to a national YouGov Omnibus field poll taken March 16, 2017, 55% of consumers who knew Time Warner Cable changed its name didn’t know the new brand name was Spectrum.
For its part, however, Charter reported a net loss of 100,000 video customers in the first quarter, with legacy Time Warner Cable customers leaving in hordes as Charter attempts to convert these acquired subscribers to its Spectrum brand.