Platform: Tempering ad pizazz with PR discernment - Issues-led advertising co-ordinated with sensitive PR can add emotional appeal to a brand, says Chris Genasi

The recent withdrawal of one of Kellogg’s advertisements and the subsequent media allegations that the company was trivialising childhood bullying for commercial gain, vividly demonstrated how important the wider social and political environment can be for brand advertising campaigns.

The recent withdrawal of one of Kellogg’s advertisements and the

subsequent media allegations that the company was trivialising childhood

bullying for commercial gain, vividly demonstrated how important the

wider social and political environment can be for brand advertising

campaigns.



All too often, advertising that is creative, striking and apparently

right for a brand, can contain controversial elements that could offend

sections of the public. Bright eyed marketers and creative ad types may

- in their enthusiasm - not consider the social issues that could lead

to embarrassment for the brand and the company behind it.



This is where the in-house or consultancy-based corporate PR

professional should earn their weight in gold by putting on an objective

hat and viewing the creative work with an eye for potential

controversy.



For example, any campaign that positions a brand or company as a

self-styled expert, or which latches on to real life issue or minority

groups, is always a prime candidate for triggering media outrage. Inmost

cases, the media are inspired to attack by the pressure groups,

charities and government officials who are forever vigilant in promoting

their own causes.



Brands that ignore this group of opinion formers and experts, risk being

seen as lightweight and cynical in their attempt to surf the growing

swell of fin de siecle angst.



Today’s consumer, journalists and pressure groups are perpetually

suspicious and will want to see what is behind any advertisements that -

for example, promote a company’s caring side, or its environmental

credentials. Brands that chose to advance themselves through an

issues-based approach, will discover that it is only a matter of time

before the ranks of single issue pressure groups and campaigners take an

interest.



This does not mean that advertisers should eschew the issues-led path to

brand differentiation. Indeed, if well executed, it can be a highly

effective way to add emotional appeal and credibility to a brand.



However, the marketers must work with the corporate PR team, to ensure

issue management safeguards are in place. For example, PR professionals

can scout ahead before ad campaigns are launched to brief and enlist the

support of any relevant opinion formers or commentators.



This vital groundwork may well help to improve the ads by obtaining a

more accurate perspective on an issue - for example, what is it really

like to be disabled, bullied at school or, say, a single parent. Brands

may also gain the support of influential campaign groups - either

formally through the use of logos, or informally via behind the scenes

support.



While this seems like common sense, it is a process that is sadly often

neglected. All too often, corporate communications directors find that

their brands are like wayward teenagers, encouraged by well meaning

advertising uncles. A lot of trouble can be avoided if corporate PR

teams are always consulted and if close relations are nurtured between

advertising agencies and PR consultancies.



Ultimately there needs to be a partnership between those who are

custodians of brand image and those who are concerned with corporate

reputation (they are rarely one and the same).



Corporate PR professionals must take on board the task of winning the

attention and respect of brand marketing colleagues by adding real value

to campaigns. Only then will we see consultation with the corporate PR

team becoming common practice in every marketing department.



Chris Genasi is head of the corporate division at Shandwick Welbeck.



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