New Digital Media, Slashed Budgets Helping Bring Functions Together

When the Cannes Advertising Festival added public relations to its contest categories in 2009, it was acknowledging the growing acceptance of the advertising-PR partnership in the 21st Century. It’s a partnership which purists on both sides looked down on for years, but which some agencies have recognized and profited from for decades.

The 2008-09 recession brought the shotgun relationship into the open. With both advertising and PR budgets being cut drastically, some ad and PR strategists decided to combine their efforts rather than fight each other.

Such partnerships reflect an industry trend toward integrated marketing, a strategy in which the message or idea is more important than the media. Futurist Matt Dickman has said that content will be king in advertising and it should create value for the customer.

Spread Message Over Diverse Media

When possible, the message is spread over diverse media, paid or sponsored. The costs just come out of different budgets.

Traditional differences between advertising and public relations can often be traced to simple differences in definition and/or categorizing. Advertising is traditionally defined as a paid media message, but the explosion in new media and new uses of even old media have blurred that definition. Is paid mention of products on TV drama shows, or paid placement of editorial matter in newspapers, advertising or public relations?

Public relations is often defined as free advertising, but that definition is seldom accurate. Successful placement of unpaid editorial matter in publications almost always requires someone researching the concept, developing basic background material, selling media people on the idea, working with the publication staff and then monitoring the coverage and results, all of which can add up to more than the cost of an ad.

Are Websites Ads or PR

Are websites, blogs and window displays advertising or PR? If a window is displaying a new line of clothing it might be considered advertising. If it is a Santa Claus display designed to excite children, it might be considered public relations.

Such differences become relevant only when it comes time to assign budgets, responsibilities, credit and/or blame for the project.

“Mad Men” Multi-Media Promotion

Just how closely PR and advertising can work together was demonstrated recently in a multi-media promotion of the television show “Mad Men.”

  • AMC and Lionsgate Home Entertainment ran pure advertising for the show’s third season and for the second season DVD.
  • Banana Republic and AMC cosponsored a photo contest for people who might be chosen to participate in the show. Pure PR.
  • Banana Republic produced window displays to promote “Mad Men” styled clothes and accessories. PR or advertising?
  • Vanity Fair and Variety produced “Mad Men” media features, accompanied by Clorox ads, a PR/advertising combo.
  • Someone convinced Advertising Age to produce a feature on the total promotion. More PR.

Was anyone counting PR vs advertising points? Probably not, but someone will measure the bottom line of the total promotion.

Advertising and PR Can Help Each Other

The truth is that public relations projects usually need the help of advertising. And a good PR project can strengthen almost any advertising campaign.

The growth of social media will only blur the advertising and public relations lines even more. Facebook, Twitter and media such as YouTube and Google will require the integration of diverse media in new and innovative ways with little concern about whether they are called PR, advertising, promotion or marketing.

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