Thought Leader Ads: How Brands Can Amplify Their Voices Through Their People

December 1, 2023
mins read
Nelaka Jayasekera

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in how brands communicate on professional networking platforms like LinkedIn. Based on our extensive experience at Roar AdX, working with over 70 client ad accounts as a consulting/media agency collaborating with LinkedIn Marketing Solutions in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, we've noticed an interesting trend — 'people like listening to people on LinkedIn'. This is not to undermine the relevance of brand storytelling in today's digital age. Rather, it's the powerful combination of storytelling by brands and storytelling by people that seems to drive the most impact.

A testament to this evolving trend is LinkedIn's introduction of Thought Leader Ads this year. This new ad format aligns perfectly with the idea of humanising brand messaging by promoting posts authored by business leaders within organizations. They present a unique opportunity for brands to build trust, establish industry authority, and grow a community around their thought leaders by sharing unique perspectives from executives, industry experts, or top talent. Moreover, they can help to generate followers and engagement for thought leaders within an organization, amplifying their personal brand and creating a vibrant community centered around their insights and expertise.

Industry giants such as EY, KPMG, Microsoft, and Mastercard are already leveraging Thought Leader Ads to connect with their audiences on a more personal level. Since its launch in mid-June, beta testers of this new ad format have reported a 1.7x higher Click Through Rate (CTR) and a 1.6x higher engagement rate compared to other single-image ad campaigns.

Mastercard's Innovative Use of Thought Leadership Ads

Mastercard provides an exemplary case of how Thought Leader Ads can be successfully utilised. As detailed in a case study published by LinkedIn, the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions team suggested the use of Thought Leader Ads to enhance the Mastercard brand marketing strategy. This new format was an ideal fit for Mastercard's objectives, enabling them to reinforce their thought leadership position while profiling their business leaders.

A diverse group of six business leaders were chosen for the pilot run of Thought Leader Ads, ensuring the content was authentic and aligned with each leader’s field of expertise or passion. The ads were then presented to an audience defined by Skills, Interests or Job Functions, in addition to Industries and Geographies.

Thought Leadership Ads by Mastercard (Source: Mastercard LinkedIn Page)
Thought Leadership Ads by Mastercard (Source: Mastercard LinkedIn Page)

Barkha Patel, Senior Vice President, Communications, Asia Pacific at Mastercard, applauds the effectiveness of this approach, stating, "We view LinkedIn as a strategic marketing partner, especially when it comes to engaging our wide range of stakeholders across the Asia Pacific region. When presented with the opportunity to trial Thought Leader Ads, we immediately agreed, and are glad we did as the impact was clear. It reaffirms what we all know: that people enjoy hearing from people."

Getting Started and Best Practices

Brands are realizing the importance of amplifying their voice through thought leaders within their organizations. The era of impersonal corporate messaging is giving way to a more human-centric approach, where leaders are using their personal brands to engage with customers and stakeholders in a more meaningful way. This emphasis on thought leadership is not merely a trend, but a necessity in an age where authenticity and transparency often determine brand loyalty. 

To help brands navigate this shift and execute effective thought leadership campaigns, we've outlined a quick guide below.

  • The first step to leveraging Thought Leader Ads is to identify the persona for each thought leader. Having clarity about who they are, how they can align to the brand voice and create value for key audience segments is crucial.
  • Next, optimise the LinkedIn profile of the thought leaders, treating these pages as landing pages just like how you'd optimise your company website landing pages.
  • Lastly, focus on creating content that resonates with your target audience. Authenticity is key here — while the content needs to be relevant to your audience, it should also genuinely reflect the viewpoints and experiences of the thought leaders.

Moreover, LinkedIn recommends that thought leaders diversify their content by sharing a blend of real-time updates, insightful quotes, and thought-provoking questions along with photos or video to make posts more engaging. 

  • Don't wait for the perfect moment to share your thoughts on industry news. Instead, provide a real-time reaction or analysis that is relevant and timely.
  • Offer a unique perspective and a sharp point-of-view on industry trends, best practices, or other news.
  • Use images, infographics, or videos to make your content more engaging and catch your audience's attention.
  • Provide useful and actionable information that your audience can apply to their daily lives.
  • Be personal and vulnerable to humanize your content and connect with your audience.
  • Start a conversation by asking questions that encourage engagement and respond to comments.

This approach not only enhances their social presence but also adds a personal touch to the brand.

As brands strive to humanise their voice and foster stronger connections with their audience, investing in their people as an extension of their brand voice is proving to be a compelling strategy. This is an exciting development that we expect to see more brands adopting in the near future.