The best PR in the world can’t help a poorly performing product

The American Association of Advertising Agencies announced it has hired Golin-Harris to provide PR support. According to Kip Cheng, VP and director of public affairs for the 4As, Golin was retained to accomplish a number of things: "There are great agencies out there, trends, an undiscovered guru everybody within the industry knows about, but the general public might not," said Cheng.

4as_1 OK, if you say so, Kip. But, in point of fact, advertising is reeling and the industry association’s decision to hire Golin indicates the level of panic. Sadly, though, no matter how good Golin is, the facts are that much of the business world is passing advertising by. Sure, the hot shops like Crispin and Deutsche continue to reinvent themselves and the very definition of marketing. But, that’s because they’re flexible, irreverent and not tied to the traditional advertising model. And, it’s that traditional model, dominated by the holding companies that the 4As represents and which Golin has to publicize, that is hamstringing the industry from staying ahead of fast-changing consumer decision-making.

Golin has an uphill battle to be sure. Web 2.0 has put consumers in control and ad agencies are still trying to figure out what happened. More and more large marketers are unbundling their traditional spends and reallocating resources to digital, viral, and other consumer-generated media.

But, don’t just listen to me. An Ad Age poll of its readers found that 87 percent think the advertising industry has an image problem, but that hiring a PR firm isn’t the answer. Comments included:

– "The industry doesn’t need PR; it needs real, sincere effort."

– "The advertising industry is viewed as manipulative of information as well as emotions."

– "The funds would be better spent creating a new future for the field."

Amen to that comment. The best PR firm in the world can’t help a client with a broken model. And, right now, the traditional advertising holding company model is broken.

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