The Ad Guys Are Coming! The Ad Guys Are Coming!

With the traditional advertising model being ripped to shreds before our eyes, holding companies and their independent siblings are scrambling to find any possible new source of business. For the most part, the big guns are rapidly retrofitting their service offerings and going digital in a big way. But, being paid $50,000 to design a web site simply doesn't replace a multimillion dollar traditional advertising campaign (or offset those massive overhead expenses). And, so they continue to forage.

Adweek's most recent issue contains a fascinating story about one advertiser's "discovery" of internal communications. Recently, PepsiCo preceded the launch of an advertising/branding campaign with "internal communications devices" themed to match the organization's new "Word Play" campaign. The internal communications  campaign featured everything from placards and hall posters to elevator decals and an all-hands rally day at which the campaign was unveiled. PepsiCo has even coined a term for unveiling an ad campaign to employees: "invertising." That's cute.

Surprisingly, industry experts quoted in the article say PepsiCo is the exception and not the norm when it comes to educating employees about new campaigns. Most advertisers apparently never brief employees before launching a new initiative. That's not surprising since advertising is all about creating external target audience awareness.

Ah, but that was then and this is now. I'll bet smart (and desperate) ad agency types will see a revenue opportunity here and start pitching internal communications as a natural strategic value-add to any new campaign. And, that's where the trouble (or fun) begins. Internal communications has always been the purview of either corporate communications or human resources. Advertisers don't 'get' the need for open and transparent employee communications and will badly butcher this if given the chance.

PepsiCo seems to have done it right, limiting its "invertising" to placards, etc. But, woe betide the organization that turns its employee communications program over to a traditional ad agency and its top-down communications model. Feel-good, rah-rah ad posters are the worst possible thing to do at the worst possible time. Note to CMOs': keep alerting your employees to future campaigns, but leave the 'real' internal communications to the professionals who know it best.

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