iMac and Viagra - hard sells of '98.

What was the best campaign of 1998? If you haven't already replied to the PRWeek Best & Worst of Public Relations poll, you should do so now. The deadline has been extended by 24 hours, till December 8th at 5pm. In the meantime, and to whet your appetite, we would like to suggest two contenders for the 'Best' slot.

What was the best campaign of 1998? If you haven't already replied to the PRWeek Best & Worst of Public Relations poll, you should do so now. The deadline has been extended by 24 hours, till December 8th at 5pm. In the meantime, and to whet your appetite, we would like to suggest two contenders for the 'Best' slot.

The first is the launch of Apple's iMac. We've all admired the creative work of Chiat Day. A very photogenic product taken from all sorts of angles.

With lots of cute one-liners. It's advertising at its very best.

But the real success story of the iMac is probably down to PR as much as ads. Consider the background. The launch of the iMac was prepared in the wake of a (public relations) nightmare that has been escalating in intensity for fully five years.

Market share had declined to 2%. The share price had nose-dived. Two CEOs had tried and failed. Issues of reliability and user support were constantly in the papers. The future of the company was in constant and very public debate. The maverick founder, Steve Jobs, who had returned to the company on a temporary basis, was still considering his future plans after several months. And, of all the indignities, after Oracle failed to buy the beleaguered company, a certain Bill Gates took a $150 million stake to 'save' the company, and his shareholding immediately doubled in value.

The challenge, then, was about more than one-liners. It was about the very viability of a company. It was about selling Steve Jobs, when his future at the company was uncertain. It was about persuading the world-weary computer trade press that Apple could be taken seriously after so much management incompetence.

And what about Viagra? It was a phenomenon that happened without paid advertising. But it couldn't have happened without good PR. Okay, so there was a great story to tell. But there were so many issues and aspects to consider, so many stories - from health scares to age discrimination, from Rx prices to availability, across almost the entire globe - that without appropriate PR support; without measured sequencing of the message to the entire community of Viagra's interest - the message would have 'spun' out of control.

So, if you've got any better suggestions for great PR in 1998, we want to hear them. Please don't delay. But why should you bother? First, because these stories make great reading, and we can all learn from them. But second, when we've conducted the survey, we're going to send the results to the top national media.

In other words, this is a great chance to promote the secret, silent work of PR. To make people understand what we do. Isn't that the Holy Grail we're all looking for?

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