If only they’d spend some those of those big bucks on PR

I’m always amazed in the aftermath of the Super Bowl commercials hoopla why no one asks an obvious question: why aren’t some of the advertisers spending huge amounts of money on PR, instead of blowing it on 30-second spots few will remember and fewer still will respond to?

So, while the Bud Light and Sprint Nextel commericals were rightly praised by the likes of Stuart Elliott in the NY Times, why aren’t more pundits suggesting that the less successful marketers find better ways to reach target audiences?

For example, the insurance company spot featuring Fabio in a gondola who, when he re-appears after emerging from a bridge, is suddenly old and wizened, totally missed the mark. First, I can’t even remember the firm’s name. Second, who in god’s name is the ad aimed at? Is the average consumer going to call his or her insurance agent because Fabio suddenly aged sixty years in front of their eyes? As my daughter might say, “I mean, c’mon.”

Or, how about those dreadful GoDaddy commercials? The spots never explain the GoDaddy business model. Instead, they spoof the now two-year-old, highly irrelevant Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction. If GoDaddy wants to let people know it’s THE place to go to create and register a Web site URL, why not spend the money to clearly and consistently communicate that message through editorial content, which is so much more credible than advertising?

Next to word-of-mouth, public relations is the single most effective way to sell a product or service. It boggles this PR guy’s mind to think how many more customers would be buying those Super Bowl advertisers’ products and services if only they’d opted to spend the big bucks on the much more cost effective public relations option. Oh well. Wait ’till next year.

9 thoughts on “If only they’d spend some those of those big bucks on PR

  1. Look at brands like eBay, Amazon.com, Starbucks, and Red Bull. They were all built solely on PR and now use advertising to maintain momentum. PR plants the seed, advertising harvests the crop. Third-party credibility and word-of-mouth are key when it comes to developing a brand. No doubt advertising creates visibility, but can it influence purchasing decisions in the way that a positive review can? What would influence you more, the latest Nissan XTerra commercial, or a 4-star review of the XTerra and a vote for “car of the year” by an influential automotive columnist?

  2. Very slow time of the year in the world of medical devices…
    But back to MY point for a second. If advertising is such a waste of money (and by the way, I agree that 95% of the time advertising is a waste) then why do companies spend a full year of a PR retainer on a 30 second spot. According to your logic of advertising building awareness and PR building credibility, then the logical extension would be minimal dollars to make the public aware of a product or service and a bulk of the marketing dollars building credibility. That said, I would be interested in seeing companies that devote a strong majority of their marketing dollars to PR and only a fraction to advertising. If that is not the case, it makes me wonder why not?

  3. This must be the slow time in the medical devices field. Once again, you’ve missed my point. Who cares if you “know” what you get with advertising when advertising no longer connects with the end user/customer in a one-to-one way. Your Newsweek example is a great case in point. Do you have any idea how much “waste” there is in Newsweek’s circulation for any advertiser trying to pinpoint a specific type of buyer? Because there are no “guarantees” in public relations it intrinsically has more value and credibility to the reader who, based upon what a reporter or editor writes, will make a buying decision. Advertising creates awareness. Public relations builds credibility. While both are critical, the latter is intrinsic to the eventual buying decision.

  4. I just reread the post again and would like to pose a question to the repman. In the opening paragraph you pose the question of “why aren’t some of the advertisers spending huge amounts of money on PR, instead of blowing it on 30-second spots few will remember and fewer still will respond to?”
    While my previous response focused on the super bowl ads themselves, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this issue is not a “super bowl” question but rather an ad vs. pr debate.
    Forget for a second the price per second of a super bowl ad and think about a 30-second spot during any primetime show. Companies are sometimes spending $$ on 30 seconds spots in what could bring them an entire YEAR of a retainer for a PR firm. So that begs the question of what value is placed on PR by companies around the world. Why not run 2 or 3 fewer commercials during the entire year and get exponentially more band for their buck from a PR firm???
    I think the answer is simple…with advertising, you know what you are getting in return for the dollars spent. If you want a full page spread in Newsweek, and you write the check, you can have your companies message EXACTLY as you want it, where you want it, how you want it, etc. Now, is that message going to produce results, who knows? But with PR, you can spend all the $$ in the world and have no guarantees at all, except that hoping your PR firm is working hard on your behalf. They can work as hard as they want, pitch the story they want, get a writer hooked, book the interview, prep the client on messaging, get the best quotes, and in an instant, the editor can change everything. There are so many variables in PR that make it impossible to compare apples to apples with advertising. For me, the old saying holds true for this debate..a bird in the hand…

  5. methinks this argument with the medical supply guy is totally a waste of your time and energy, repman. i don’t think he understands the true value of PR…

  6. I do not believe I missed the point- here is a direct quote from my reply. “I will agree that not every ad hits the proper messaging, although you need to think about what if any message they are trying to get out.”
    I believe that companies like Go Daddy, would, in an ideal world, like their sales to increase exponentailly from their ad, but their main goal from spending the cash was to put their name in front of 50 million Ameicans, which they in fact did. Go Daddy could go to any PR firm and sign a 30 million dollar contract and not get their name in front of 50 million people in a year, yet they can spend the same money and be guaranteed to be seen by the masses. Several times on your blog you have discussed the world of advertising, and my counter-point has always been that at least you have “guarantees” with advertising. We can argue all day long about which ads are effetcive and which ads weren’t, but the same an be done for PR campaigns. But if you want to argue that smaller insurance companies (I don’t remember the name either) should have spent the money on PR, then following your logic and post above, companies like GM should never spend a dollar on PR as their message is almost always targted at the masses (depending on how you define masses).
    That said, I agree that money is “better spent” in other areas, IF the goal is to send a targeted message to a specific group, but in most if not all the cases of SB ads, I bet the well-paid marketing execs know exactly what they were doing, and if their goals weren’t met, they wouldn’t buy an ad the following the year. But let me pose a question to you being the veteran marketer…if Sprint approached you needing to reach x million Americans with a messaeg, and had 20 million dollars to spend on either a super bowl ad or a pr campaign, what would you advise them.
    As an aside, in the obscure field of medical supplies (at least in my area) its all about limited highly-targeted marketing so a super bowl ad or an article on the front page on the NY Times would have little to no impact.

  7. As was the case with my previous posts, you totally missed the point on this one, Isaac. Mass consumer advertising is a colossal waste of money unless one is trying to reach mass consumers a la Budweiser and Sprint. Other savvy marketers know that, with the rise of new technologies and the “citizen journalist,” the consumer is now king. Consequently, one-to-one marketing (and, in particular, the much more credible and cost-effective public relations) is becoming more and more important. One would think that a former PR person like yourself would know that “buzz” from Stuart Elliott doesn’t automatically translate to sales. Rather, it’s the word-of-mouth buzz from third party, editorial coverage that prompts today’s consumer to make a buying decision. I would hope that holds true even in an obscure field like medical supplies.

  8. Having read your blog about super bowl ads and the money spent, I think you actually managed to convince me even more about why the companies spend the money the on advertising rather than PR. I will agree that not every ad hits the proper messaging, although you need to think about what if any message they are trying to get out.
    For example, take Go Daddy’s ad. Maybe their ad was done to simply provoke media commentary the next day as being the “worst ad.” Or maybe those 50 million Americans who watched the game went to work the next day and talked about how bad the ad was to 50 million or more co-workers. So in their case, they paid for ad and got free PR. Bud Light and Nextel spent tons of cash and had Stuart Elliott write about their ads in the arguably what would be considered a HUGE score for a PR flack. Again, they used advertsing dollars to create free PR.
    In the cases of all super bowl ads, their goal is to generate a buzz and many ads do that. The money they spend is to get their product or service in front of 50 million captivated Americans, many of whom are watching simply for the ads themselves. I’m not sure, but I would feel safe betting that not many PR pros can name a time that they had millions of Americans huddles around a TV, mag, or newspaper waiting to see or read a story about how great their client was, or how impressive their new technology was. Also, I think PR pros would be hard pressed to name a time when a company spent PR dollars and in turn got free advertising as well. When these days come, maybe companies will spent their big dollars on PR rather than advertising. But for now, get used to watching more wardrobe malfunctions and horses playing football.