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Robinhood’s Full-page Crisis Response
Robinhood was ready to say something.
The stock-trading app found itself at the center of 2021’s first big corporate crisis last week for its role in the massive price surges seen at GameStop and other stocks and the resulting market volatility.
The whole story is complex, involving hedge funds, short squeezes and Bed Bath & Beyond – this video offers a good primer.
Robinhood and similar services empowered a new class of investors with its commission-free stock trading app. But when the company started limiting trades, those same investors went into revolt, lodging lawsuits, protests and flooding app stores with negative reviews. Robinhood’s CEO is probably going to have to testify before Congress.
Robinhood had to respond. So it took out full-page newspaper ads in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Hill.
The full-page ads are a letter to its users and a QR code to a statement on the company’s website.
Who Reads Full-page Ads Anymore?
A full-page ad in a high-profile newspaper offers numerous benefits. Most importantly, it’s a chance to tightly control your message while reaching a large audience. That control is expensive – more than $150,000 for the most prominent papers. Brands typically use it when they have something important to say, often in response to a crisis.
Yet, in today’s digital-first world, the coverage Robinhood got for taking out the ad is as just important as the ad itself. It’s an effective (if expensive) way to transfer some of the control offered by paid media onto earned media channels.
Still, it’s a risk. When Facebook used a full-page ad strategy late last year to take on Apple’s enhanced privacy policies, the social media titan received blowback for its manipulative messaging.
But for Robinhood, the tactic paid off. And it’s not like the brand has any shortage of exposure right now. It ran a Super Bowl ad yesterday. Yet because it booked the airtime in December, the spot didn’t respond directly to the GameStop controversy.
For that, Robinhood relied on a full-page ads – and all the coverage that came with them.
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