Apr 15

I hate to say I told you so, but….

You know a seismic upheaval is underway when an advertising professional says public relations is the smartest marketing investment a company can make in a recession. I'll let you read what Steve McKee of a Cleveland-based ad agency has to say, but I will add a few other points:April 15 - credibility1

1) Advertising has always insisted upon an inside-out approach along the lines of: "Hey! Look at our new product or service! Isn't it wonderful?'' Public relations, on the other hand, has always engaged a reporter and his/her audience in a problem-solution dialogue: "Hey! Did you know that 88 percent of Americans just surveyed said the number one thing they need is ABC? Our client has a next generation ABC that I think you and your readers will want to know more about."

2) People don't need to pay for advertising anymore, so they don't. Web 2.0 consumers depend upon word-of-mouth and other forms of credible endorsement to make informed decisions. They TiVo their way through television programs and delete intrusive online ads. That said, they search like mad for news and information from credible sources.

3.) PR is much, much more than what Mr. McKee describes. In the postEnron, current AIG environment in which we live, PR has become fundamental to a brand's image and reputation. Open and honest internal and external dialogue, transparent conversations and fiscal responsibility are the new watchwords of the consumer conversation.

Mr. McKee quotes the ad agency Crispin Porter Bogusky's definition of advertising as: "Making our clients heroes." In this 'new normal' in which we live, my definition of PR might be "Making our clients credible."

The king is dead. Long live the king.

Nov 29

When BusinessWeek suggests you’re irrelevant, it’s time to go to plan B

The current BusinessWeek cover asks a question I’ve been wondering about for some time: ‘Is Madison  Avenue racing towards irrelevance? I’d say so.Business_2

Traditional advertising is in a freefall as documented by the BW article. Growth has slowed, profits are down and clients are going elsewhere for solutions. Why? Because the big ad shops like Saatchi, which is the focus of BWs profile, simply aren’t retrofitting their basic model fast enough to keep up with rapidly-changing consumer buying patterns.

Saatchi’s recent campaign for JC Penney is cited as a textbook example of advertising’s growing irrelevance. Despite crafting a campaign that dazzled the ad industry and will, no doubt, win countless Gold Lions at Cannes, the effort did absolutely nothing for sales. Nothing. Why? Because consumers have far too many other sources of information today and don’t have the time for, or trust in, advertising.

BW says direct mail, media buying shops and interactive agencies are the big beneficiaries of advertising’s decline. And they are. But, so too, is PR. From everything I see and read, more and more marketers ‘get’ PR and understand its far more powerful and credible strategies for connecting with fickle, web 2.0-enabled consumers.

So, what’s a poor ad man to do? BW says Saatchi’s CEO Kevin Roberts is contemplating everything from ‘green communications’ to ‘retail design consulting.’ Ouch. How do you spell desperation?

PR has long been seen as advertising’s poor stepsister. So, it’s hard to shed many tears for all the high and mighty creative geniuses whose ‘breakthrough’ work simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Maybe some of them can find jobs in direct mail, interactive or, gasp, even PR?

Oct 25

I don’t like Green Meanies

Everywhere I turn, I see, hear and read about ‘going green.’ Whether it’s my neighbors buying hybrid cars,Gogreen
major Fortune 500 companies announcing huge sustainability efforts or big PR firms declaring their workplaces will be carbon neutral by 2009, it seems like everyone’s jumping on the environmental sensitivity bandwagon.

And, that’s cool. It’s a noble effort to be sure. But, is it a futile one as well? Auden Schendler, who Time Magazine anointed just last year as a ‘climate crusader’ thinks so. He laments in a current BusinessWeek profile, "How do you really green your company? It’s almost f***ing impossible."

It seems that no matter what any of us do, it will have very little, if any, meaningful impact on reducing global carbon emissions. Does that mean we shouldn’t try? Or course not.  But, the ‘doing well by doing right’ corporate mantra du jour, is apparently just that in many cases: a mantra du jour.

According to BusinessWeek, some companies are already abandoning their green efforts because they don’t provide an immediate return. CEOs, pressured by Wall Street to produce quarter-to-quarter results, simply can’t wait seven years to show an ROI (which is understandable).

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