"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don't know which half” is one of the most famous and oft-repeated quotes relating to marketing communications.
It was spoken by Unilever founder Lord (William) Leverhulme, who died in 1925, long before the advent of the internet and social media. But I was reminded of this quote again when I saw Burson-Marsteller's recent survey about PR messages getting lost in translation when they are filtered through the lens of mainstream media.
The survey attracted a lot of comment on the PRWeek website, much of it intimating that the findings were a kick in the teeth for PR.
Apparently, 45% of US stories analyzed for the WPP agency's survey were portrayed differently to the way the Global 100 companies sending the messages wanted them to come across.
Ergo, 55% of messages aren't getting lost. In fact, they are getting through to the target audience quite nicely thank you.
In other words, PR is beating Leverhulme's dictum and, what's more, and contrary to aspersions constantly cast at PR about a lack of accountability, marketers do know which half is working.
Maybe my logic is completely flawed on this one, but I feel the survey should be celebrated and promoted rather than worried about. If you look at it in a “glass half full” way – rather than “half empty” – it actually makes the case that PR is more effective than advertising.
If he was around today, Lord Leverhulme would no doubt be diverting tranches of his not-insubstantial marketing budgets away from advertising and into the much more targeted and measurable discipline of PR!