Where PR ends and Advertising begins

September 24, 2009 at 8:47 am 2 comments

The lines between PR and Advertising are becoming hazier more now than ever.

Advertising has developed dependency issues. In the Mad Men era, all you needed was an ad with an attractive young woman wearing bright red lipstick holding whatever it was you wanted sold. Now ads have to scuffle and fight its way through the media’s clutter. Even a really good ad (good in the ad world = creative) doesn’t mean the consumer is going to buy whatever the ad is selling. Instead, the consumer laughs, cries, stares in awe, etc and then posts a link of it on facebook to share with his or her friends. It has crossed from the functional lines of “selling” and instead has entered the realm of “entertaining.” The ads that serve a purpose beyond being the hottest youtube video are those that the consumer is already interested in.

New products are not going to be sold by ads because people know what ads are: just ads. It is too risky to buy something from someone who is being paid to tell you to do it, no matter how creative the approach. Instead, they are going to be persuaded by recommendations from the people they do trust: their friends, colleagues, and respected opinion leaders. Word-of-mouth promotion is what sells a new product to a new consumer. In other words, PR.

With that said, I do not think this is the death of Advertising. I simply think advertising needs to get rid of its 1980s mullet and get hip with today’s consumer environment. It’s old tricks just aren’t cutting it anymore.

Good advertising requires PR to make the way for its grand entrance. It’s like being set up on a blind date. If you know nothing about the person, chances are you aren’t going to go on the date. But if a friend tells you what a great person this blind date is, that he or she has a lot in common with you, and a few attractive/ powerful/ influential people who have dated this person in the past, chances are that you will be trying to reschedule the date for an earlier time so you can meet this wonderful person.

Advertising needs PR. But then again, PR kind of likes being needed.


Entry filed under: PR Ponderings. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Norm  |  September 25, 2009 at 10:33 am

    I am not sure I agree with you that word-of-mouth advertising is PR. WOM could be a PR tactic, it can also be an advertising/marketing tactic. Both – if successful campaigns – would bring in new trial usage. The bigger question is did you do it organically (more PR) or through a paying (I would say advertising) customer.

    Great information and very thought provoking.

  • 2. mikinzie  |  September 25, 2009 at 10:52 am

    I agree that WOM is only a tool/ function of PR, not PR in it’s entirety. I suppose I should have made that a little more clear.

    However, this proves the point between the blurring of lines between all the marketing aspects in general: they all depend on each other in one way or another, some more than others.

    I found an interesting article from AdAge that I will discuss and post in the near future about how PR chiefs are starting to steer the helm of marketing departments full-time. It is definitely food for thought about the future of PR and role it plays in marketing.


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