Downturn leaves doors open for PR rather than splashy ads

A recent New York Times article about Super Bowl advertising discussed how the bleak economic situation might make high-priced ads and media deals reflect negatively on a company.

In the news
A recent New York Times article about Super Bowl advertising discussed how the bleak economic situation might make high-priced ads and media deals reflect negatively on a company.

Like the Super Bowl, the holiday season tends to be a popular time for bold marketing and advertising efforts, particularly among the retail sector. But this year, some brands and companies are finding themselves in a predicament, as they wonder if large marketing spends will make them appear insensitive to hard-hit consumers.

Why does it matter?
Jackie Reau, CEO of Game Day Communications, says splashy marketing doesn't always resonate poorly because consumers expect it in certain situations, like Macy's holiday campaign. Still, she believes bold new marketing efforts right now will be hard to justify.

“The cynicism in the media that might be... writing about it right now might negatively impact that campaign launch,” she says.

Reau adds that PR can be a wise alternative to marketing and advertising to build lasting relationships with consumers.

Andrea Morgan, EVP and MD of North America for Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, says PR can place a message in the right context and deliver it to consumers in a way that is sensitive to the economy.

“Because PR is a very cost-effective vehicle, we are able to deliver a message that doesn't seem so in your face,” Morgan says.

She adds that cause marketing is popular this holiday season among companies looking to balance out a strong marketing push with a sensitive appeal to consumers.

Five facts:
1 US retail sales dropped 2.8% from September to October. This is the steepest decline since 1992 and marks the fourth consecutive month that retail sales fell.

2 Gap is looking to engage consumers through a section of its Web site that will feature videos of celebrities performing remixed holiday songs.

3 For every gift card bought at Sears, the company will donate $1 to Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit that works to repair homes for low-income Americans.

4 Keeping sensitivity to consumers in mind, Best Buy launched a holiday campaign –“You, happier” – that focuses on value in terms of price and customer service.

5 OfficeMax is again hosting its Elf Yourself viral video holiday effort. In 2007, the Elf Yourself site received more than 193 million visits in six weeks, the company said.

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