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Tech startup MasterClass is trying to move beyond its social media roots, so it’s launching a massive new campaign starring Anna Wintour

Tech startup MasterClass is trying to move beyond its social media roots, so it’s launching a massive new campaign starring Anna Wintour

"Lead with a vision." "Learn from your critics." "Create the culture."

Young urban professionals going to work, checking their social feeds, and reading The New York Times or will come face to face with Anna Wintour this week as she dispenses bite-sized inspirational quotes across print, digital, and out of home ads in the first major brand campaign for e-learning startup MasterClass.

David Schriber, who spent 14 years in Nike's marketing department, recently became CMO at the online portal that has raised $136.4 million in funding to connect celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson, Steph Curry, Serena Williams, and Natalie Portman with students eager to learn their craft.

He told Business Insider that this campaign demonstrates how marketers are eager to connect more directly with consumers.

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MasterClass wants to raise awareness of its brand by moving beyond social media marketing.

In the past, MasterClass promoted itself via a combination of pay-for-performance ads and organic social media content, most of which highlighted the short trailers for its 12-minute celebrity "sessions."

Now, Schriber plans to expand the scope of those efforts with a broader and more expensive cross-platform campaign as the brand attempts to move from a video product to a lifestyle offering for its most dedicated customers.

"You don't have to get the whole message into a 60-second film," he said. "It could be one and a half seconds on Instagram, a single image or a few words on Twitter, something that flashes large out of home. It could be 3 minutes on YouTube."

Ads featuring Wintour's famous face ran in The New York Times Sunday Business section and took over Vogue's website. Commuters will also see them in subway stops near the World Trade Center well as in sponsored Twitter trends and posts on Instagram and Facebook. Wintour picked fashion photographer Tyler Mitchell's images for the ads by renowned designer Jessica Walsh of &Walsh.

This broad marketing approach will ensure that the brand's inspirational message reaches its core demographic of 35-year-olds with an emphasis on young women looking to move up professionally.


Anna Wintour was an ideal ambassador thanks to her instantly recognizable name and a leadership theme that transcends the MasterClass brand.

Schriber said the brand purposely chose a launch date after Labor Day, Fashion Week, and the US Open, adding, "It's a Monday where everyone nationally is thinking a little more about how they will show up [to work]."

The CMO doesn't believe his company has any direct competitors because, unlike most other e-learning businesses, it doesn't market to students. "This is more a competition for people's time," he said, with MasterClass aspiring to become part of ambitious consumers' attempts to make the hours they spend in front of a screen each day more productive.

Moving forward, MasterClass plans to run similar campaigns that feature ensemble casts or focus on its more famous instructors.

"You will see this again and again," Schriber said. "It does matter that you [use] multiple touchpoints and give the consumer an opportunity to tell the story in their head."