PR firms need to imagine ideas that matter, not advertising ones

Most of the Cannes Lions winning videos were done by ad agencies. Can PR firms compete? Regarding TV commercials, why bother? Regarding digital and social video, absolutely

It is time to rethink and revalue our approach to video creation. An average TV commercial can cost – not including distribution – $200,000 to $500,000. PR firms have higher margin benchmarks and lower budgets and often can’t go that high.

But, it’s time to go beyond the two-week turnaround and $25,000-$50,000 budget. PR firms need to move the budgets up to somewhere in the middle, especially as ad agencies’ budgets are dropping because brands are less willing to pay.

For firms without a full-service creative video unit, find a nimble video agency partner. Next, assign this agency to help direct the group. Bring them into the early planning and budgeting phases as these hybrid "thinkers and doers" can wear many hats – which means fewer layers and less overhead. Invest more time on video strategy and creative concepts. This is one of the smartest things ad agencies do. Success here is not about copying the ad agency model, it’s about taking what works and leaving the rest.

Most of the Cannes Lions winning videos were done by ad agencies. Can PR firms compete? Short answer: Regarding TV commercials, why bother? Regarding digital and social video, absolutely.

MSLGroup won the Grand Prix for its work on Procter & Gamble’s Always #LikeAGirl campaign, so we know it’s possible.

This campaign skillfully married promotion with purpose. The videos were executed with clear vision by skilled creative professionals and were a leading example for future Cannes hopefuls.

Firms should start allocating more time to ideation, conception, and writing. They should study their audience and create content inspired by what they want and need. Imagine ideas that matter, not advertising ones. Visionaries, those who live by the philosophy "if we can think it, we can make it," should be put on video projects. And, give teams some permission to fail. The creative benefits will usually outweigh the risk.

Finally, the three things comms firms need to stop doing. One is stop treating video as an afterthought. Bring your video partners in as early as possible. Second, don’t give the job of script writing to just anybody. Dedicated copywriters are a must if you want to compete with ad agency quality. And stop using jargon. Audiences associate that kind of talk with commercials and they tune it out. 

Evan Horisk is VP of creative and production, Tane Digital Video

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