Big firms favor PR as faith in ads dwindles

NEW YORK: America's leading manufacturers, disillusioned with advertising, are turning to PR and specialist marketing to increase awareness of their brands.

NEW YORK: America's leading manufacturers, disillusioned with advertising, are turning to PR and specialist marketing to increase awareness of their brands.

Management consultants Gundersen Partners surveyed America's 50 top advertisers - including Nike, Burger King, and GM - and found that Internet and PR consultants are playing an increasingly important role in creating brand awareness.

'Companies want go out and find the best PR, and that's not likely to be through an ad agency,' said Gundersen managing director Ed Tazzia.

Changes in the communications environment emerged as the most important reason big brand companies are turning to other consultants.

Nike spokesman Scott Reames said the sportswear manufacturer has recently hired a handful of niche PR agencies, including Manning Selvage & Lee, to promote the company's work in the local community. 'It was hard to get an ad agency to understand our philosophy,' he added.

A spokesman for PepsiCo, another of the survey's respondents, said other sources were often more creative than ad agencies in the fields of PR and Internet marketing. The soft drinks giant handles its public relations in-house, but he hinted Pepsi might be on the look-out for an agency.

'The key is to realize that there are resources out there to help us with product innovation,' he said.

Gretchen Briscoe of Procter & Gamble, which also took part in the research, said P&G is in the process of changing its ads and PR mix. 'Agencies are no longer 'punished' if they choose to go the non-TV route instead,' she said.

Gunderson's survey was backed up by research published this week by Manning, Selvage & Lee, which concluded that companies have to move away from traditional communications methods. Top level marketers from 160 leading European countries were asked for their views on the factors influencing today's consumers. Of these, 84% said society was more fragmented than 18 months ago, and 96% agreed they must use a wider range of communications.

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