Sexy advertising sells products. But it can do more than that. With
a little humour and a dash of PR injected at the outset, you can have a
fulfilling press story ready in no time.
Propeller Marketing Communications’ survey last week showed the extent
to which ads make news. Propeller revealed that in 1996 there were
almost 2,000 advertising stories in the national press. The Independent
alone ran 341 items, an average of almost one per day.
Advertising is now a key part of British popular culture and
increasingly being treated as such by the media.
Advertisers have recognised this and it could be argued their use of the
medium has altered accordingly. Much advertising is now specifically
created to stimulate media controversy.
Political campaigns are a prime example. The Conservative Party’s ’Demon
Eyes’ poster topped Propeller’s survey and one media correspondent says:
’Despite the press coverage I can’t even remember even seeing the last
Labour campaign. Political parties often use only a few key sites.’
Small campaigns can generate disproportionate editorial interest when PR
is used to ’amplify’ their impact. It was Playtex’s advertising for
Wonderbra that really broke the mould three years ago using a potent
combination of sex, humour, celebrity and pro-active PR.
Early on Playtex teamed advertising agency TBWA with Jackie Cooper PR to
show how a small budget - around pounds 300,000 - combined with Eva
Herzigova can generate a mountain of press cuttings.
Wonderbra continues to rate highly in news terms. Last year Playtex used
previously unknown model Caprice Bourret to front National Wonderbra
Week shortly before a new burst of advertising. Bourret became the
’Wonderbra girl’ and a media personality.
But Nick Houghton, marketing director for Playtex says: ’We would never
do PR for the sake of it, or just to shock. We’ve had our fingers burned
in the past. Any ad must be self-standing and work for all the positive
reasons. PR simply makes the advertising work harder.’
’Companies now lavish money on PR for ads and as they spend more it is
getting better and more innovative,’ says Marianne Macdonald, the
Independent’s media correspondent.
And it’s not just brand managers who are converts. Susanna Hailstone,
head of account management at Leagas Shafron Davis Ayer and formerly
responsible for Wonderbra at TBWA, says: ’PR is absolutely essential and
works best if both teams are rocking and rolling from the start. It’s
difficult to tell where amplification ends and genuine awareness begins.
Ideally the two should be seamless.’
Jim Carroll, chief planner for the Levi Strauss account at Bartle Bogle
Hegarty, says: ’It’s difficult to isolate the contribution of PR but it
definitely helps in getting an ad talked about, which is often on our
brief. Social currency is crucial to an ad’s long term success.’
Sven Olsen, partner at Banks Hoggins O’Shea, recognises the important
distinction between strategic and tactical PR support. As an example of
strategic he points to BHO’s work with Daihatsu and the launch of its
four wheel drive Sportrack on a relatively small budget of pounds 1.4
The team decided to puncture the pretensions in the four wheel drive
sector and create a media debate. Having consulted Jackie Cooper, BHO
came out with the ’Hairdressers Need Not Apply’ advertisement, which
generated snowballing interest as hoped.
’The Telegraph, Guardian, Sun and many local press ran the story about
the image of both hairdressers and four wheel drives, and radio DJs were
constantly calling to make the client part of phone in debates,’ said
A good example of tactical support is Freud Communications’ work with
Britvic. Its approach to publicising Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury’s
’Blackcurrant Charge’ commercial for Tango was to make a celebrity of
the ’star’ Ray Gardner. Freud arranged for Gardner to be interviewed by
the Sun and the Mirror. He also appeared on TFI Friday.
’As a youth product, Blackcurrant Tango was particularly adaptable and
flexible. We didn’t need to have a well-known celebrity to reach our
audience,’ says David Atter, international marketing manager for
Freud is more likely to be involved at strategic level when parent
company Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO is handling the advertising. This was
the case with Pizza Hut. In its latest campaign, Freud was central in
choosing and negotiating the appearance of tabloid magnet Pamela
Robert Phillips, partner at Jackie Cooper stresses: ’PR is most
effective if brought in at the beginning of a campaign. Lots of
companies give you a good advertising campaign to PR, but real
integration is involvement at the planning stage.’
He adds: ’All you need is a strong team of creative individuals. There’s
no such thing as a bad idea, just bad people.’
CAMPAIGNS THAT MADE THE HEADLINES IN 1996
Client Campaign Stories
The Conservative Party Pre-election 126
WonderBra Eva Herzigova 51
BT Bob Hoskins/Rory McGrath 48
Walkers Crisps Gary Lineker 37
Levis Black and White ad series 35
Labour Pre-election 34
Source: Ads That Make News Survey by Propeller Marketing Communications