Everywhere you looked, the world’s biggest brands were searing their messaging on to your retinas. But much of the talk at Ad Week, among the modern Mad Men and women of Madison Avenue and beyond, was of a looming threat to the advertising industry – adblockers.
For the uninitiated, ad blocking technology does not present a threat to the billboards of Times Square and Piccadilly Circus – rather to the banner ads that pop up when people browse websites and apps on desktops and mobile phones.
Following Apple’s support for adblockers in iOS 9 this is a subject that has moved off the pages of the specialist advertising trade press and on to the mainstream marketing and business pages of the national newspapers where its impact is being debated by publishers and advertisers.
I have no doubt that the ever-adaptable and imaginative ad industry will survive and continue to thrive. It has faced similar threats before, including the furore around ad skipping and digital video recorders a decade back.
However there is now also a real window of opportunity for the PR industry to seize the mantle and champion its own specialist skills and expertise.
As marketers reflect on and evaluate the impact of adblocking their focus is sure to shift to examine the value of other tactics, such as earned editorial and ‘native advertising’, or advertiser-sponsored content for those not up with the latest rebranding.
Marketers want ideas that can work across a number of channels and can underpin an integrated campaign, and PR specialists can deliver when it comes to devising great storytelling content.
The best PR practitioners I know have an innate skill in crafting persuasive narratives that can work across all media. They know how to motivate influencers and consumers using storytelling skills and are uniquely positioned to help b2c or b2b brands build awareness of a product or service and nudge people towards a purchase.
PR practitioners are adept at pulling together the convincing case studies, content and data to show they understand and can work strategically across earned, owned and paid channels.
So I expect to see PR professionals using this period of reflection by clients to advance reasons why they should be involved in the early phases of campaign planning and be allowed to present creative concepts to senior decision-makers.
Let’s use this moment when marketers are reviewing all their options to remind them what PR can offer. In a digital era where increasingly advertising can be avoided by consumers, it's clear that even bought media now needs to be earned.
Kieran Kent is managing director of Propeller PR
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