BREAKTHROUGHS: As more campaigns become PR led, the challenge is to
demonstrate the added value it brings
CASE STUDY: The Village offers a through-the-line service by using
member agencies on a project basis
CREATING A STIR: Pepsi and Murphy’s decided they needed more than
advertising to push their drinks
The signs are that consumer brand managers are beginning to take
integration seriously but PR practitioners must still battle prejudices
about below-the-line disciplines. Danny Rogers reports
Who would dream of painting an airliner blue to promote a soft drink?
Have the audacity to ‘take over’ St Patrick’s Day? The sheer nerve to
set up a blind date between toddlers?
The PR-led marketing campaigns for Pepsi, Murphy’s and Safeway (see
panels) reveal a watershed for the industry. They are examples of PR
bringing creativity and demonstrable value to the marketing top table.
Claims that PR is no longer advertising’s poor cousin in the eyes of
brand managers may be premature but there is evidence that the
distinctive characteristics of the discipline are at last being
appreciated within the marketing mix.
‘Consumer brand managers are beginning to take integration seriously’
says James Thellusson, joint managing director of Cohn and Wolfe. ‘PR
people are being invited in with ad agencies at the beginning of
campaigns. They are helping to develop basic marketing concepts.’
A combination of factors explains this trend. There is a growing
corporate recognition that reputation affects sales and today’s
companies are wise to address a wider audience than immediate consumers
of their goods and services.
This is compounded by a proliferation of media through which to reach
these people, including new electronic media. Such diverse communication
has costly implications for ‘above-the-line’ (advertising) activity and
PR’s traditional ‘below-the-line’ cost effectiveness makes it an
attractive proposition. Companies are also talking to an increasingly
mature, even cynical, consumer and it is here that the credibility of PR
communication can cut some ice, especially when dealing with complex
‘An increasing number of campaigns are led by PR rather than advertising
because clients appreciate that one can talk to consumers rather than
shouting at them,’ says Quentin Bell, chairman of QBO.
Consolidated Communications’ managing director Alastair Gornall is even
more ebullient ‘We’re sending signals to lots of people that there’s
been a turning point in the industry - that PR, at a fraction of the
cost of advertising, is a more subtle and highly effective weapon.’
But it’s worth remembering that these are early days and a fiercely
competitive marketing communications sector’s response to the new
opportunities has been inevitable.
Many agencies have attempted to feed their hunger for fee income by
broadening their business and offering services outside their
traditional specialisms. A determination to ensure control remains in-
house has led to some companies positioning themselves as ‘through-the-
The Grey Group set up Grey Integrated specifically to manage through-
the-line campaigns alongside Grey Advertising and GCI PR.
From the PR corner Consolidated also markets an integrated service, the
credibility of which was given a further boost recently by a pounds 6
million above-the-line budget from Virgin Direct.
The downside is that agencies may be perceived as jacks of all trades
and masters of none, whereas clients are often searching for a
specialism or a creative edge from their agency - the reason why they
outsourced in the first place.
Some of the larger advertising agencies, like D’Arcy Masius Benton and
Bowles and Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, have reacted by acquiring below-
the-line agencies with varying levels of financial integration. The
loosest of networks being Saatchi’s ‘village’ concept (see panel.)
But Thellusson points out: ‘Agencies can talk a good game when it comes
to integration and see the benefits to their business, but at the end of
the day it’s the client that really drives it.’
Of course if integration is client-driven and separate agencies sit
together in marketing teams, almost inevitably there will be competitive
tension. This can be highly productive as disciplines compete for their
client’s creative heart and ‘leadership’ of the campaign. It could also
mean a counter-productive clash of egos.
According to research undertaken by Cranfield School of Management
earlier this year, advertising agency egos and politics pose the
greatest barriers to fully integrated marketing in the UK.
Bell cites the example of QBO sitting down with other agencies to plan
the marketing strategy for Mazda cars. According to Bell, QBO came up
with a brand proposition which it was convinced should form the basis of
overall strategy. Mazda’s subsequent rejection was judged by Bell to be
based, not on the merits of the concept, but on an in-bred reverence for
advertising over PR.
However, there are cases where PR’s creativity drives the marketing.
Indeed Freud Communications could justifiably claim much of the credit
for the Pepsi ‘blue’ campaign.
Politics aside, PR practitioners need to focus on the emerging
challenges of integration. If cost-effectiveness really is PR’s trump
card, the industry must learn to measure its input effectively - not
only the evaluation of media coverage, but the tangible value PR can
bring to other disciplines.
A recent example is Cohn and Wolfe’s media relations support of Nike’s
Dream Team advertising around the 1994 FA Cup Final, which achieved 71
per cent awareness among its target audience compared with only 38 per
cent recall for the TV commercial.
Many feel that proper analysis is long overdue. In this way integrated
campaigns could be demonstrated to be more effective than non-integrated
ones. As well as measuring input, agencies would be advised to develop
their own truly integrated outlook, recognising PR’s true value in the
marketing mix. The discipline’s strategic nature at corporate level
could be used to claim natural leadership of integrated campaigns.
Helen Mitchell, researcher in marketing at the Cranfield School agrees.
‘PR agencies are in a strong position to lead integrated marketing
‘The question is who holds the best relationship with the client? The PR
agency handling corporate and consumer issues with the board or the
advertising agency handling brand communications with the marketing
Bell believes that, despite the increasing esteem with which PR is
viewed in the marketing mix, there are some basic gaps in understanding
that need to be bridged for more effective integration.
‘Individual disciplines are still guilty of staring at their navels.
Although integration is accepted as an intellectual idea, they’re often
unable to look beyond their own expertise,’ he says.
Bell has been a strong advocate of the Integrated Marketing
Communications Initiative involving the trade bodies for the PR,
advertising, sales promotion and direct marketing industries. The
initiative began well but tailed off and Bell is critical of the lack of
support given by other disciplines. Now that he has stepped down as
chairman of the PRCA, he plans to devote more time to it.
A third challenge is creativity. Leadership derives from authority and
PR’s authority with senior marketing personnel will be bolstered by
effective creative input. Recent examples are encouraging but many in
the industry believe it must mature to a point where, like advertising,
it can separate its creative resource from account handling and
The sooner these challenges are met, the more often PR will be in at the
start with advertising rather than just supporting it. And the nearer
the day when the poor cousin inherits the estate.
Case study: Murphy’s hijacks the St Patrick’s party
To target drinkers on St Patrick’s Day - an occasion when more than a
little stout is usually imbibed - Whitbread set out to develop a
powerful marketing concept for its Murphy’s brand.
The company spent the four months leading up to 17 March planning an
integrated campaign, driven by a cross-functional team comprising PR
consultancy Cohn and Wolfe, advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty and
sales promotion agency BBL.
Murphy’s, with 14 per cent market share, is number two in a draft stout
market still dominated by Guinness. Whitbread’s aim was to use the Irish
anniversary to encourage trial among males in the 18 to 24 age group.
Whitbread marketing manager Pip Landers said: ‘As the main alternative
stout, we had to be cleverer than Guinness. The team spent a lot of time
simply ‘blue skying’ ideas.’
The outcome was that Murphy’s should claim ownership of the day’s
celebrations, and the agencies left the table to develop their specific
‘The point was to raise brand awareness and all activity was geared
around this objective. In this sense it was a PR-led campaign,’ said
As well as media relations, which involved taking journalists to
Murphy’s brewery in Cork, Cohn and Wolfe produced regional radio slots
promoting competitions and Murphy’s pub parties on the eve of St
Patrick’s Day. Vouchers for free bottles of stout were also featured in
the Sun in the previous week.
BBL supported the pub parties with posters and simultaneously targeted
the off-trade by producing a free commemorative CD of Irish music and a
Murphy’s St Patrick’s Day beer glass.
For the day itself, Bartle Bogle Hegarty organised sponsorship of all
the Irish television screened by ITV, top and tailing feature films like
The Field with short ‘bumper’ ads. This was in addition to a rotation of
five advertisements featuring the new ‘caravan’ commercial.
Media relations work continued throughout, becoming heated when Guinness
started its own campaign to counter Murphy’s publicity.
‘The campaign stirred up a fair bit of media controversy but Murphy’s
came out on top. The Times ran a piece on the marketing battle the
following week, concluding that the Murphy’s ‘upstarts’ had won the
day,’ said Landers.
Whitbread says it is too early to fully evaluate the awareness generated
by the campaign and any increase in market share. Nevertheless the
cuttings book and compilation tapes are evidence of the interest
stimulated and the company is convinced of the campaign’s success.
‘Integration is becoming more and more standard in our marketing,’ says
Landers. ‘There’s no doubt that the total effect is more than the sum of
Case study: This Village takes no prisoners
The Village is a group of 13 marketing services agencies ranging from
sales promotion and PR, to a ‘new media’ consultancy run by sci-fi
author Douglas Adams.
The member agencies are neither financially nor geographically linked,
but can come together as a single ‘through-the-line’ network.
Now six months old, it’s the brainchild of M&C Saatchi joint chief
executive Nick Hurrell who remains its central catalyst.
Since its dramatic split from Saatchi and Saatchi a year ago, M&C
Saatchi has concentrated on building its core advertising business
instead of buying up below-the-line agencies. The Village enables it to
provide an ‘integrated’ service without the risk.
Hurrell says: ‘Most of the agencies have worked together for a long
time. Others have been added when we have been impressed by their work.’
The latter was the case when M&C Saatchi came into contact with Lynne
Franks PR during a pitch for PPP healthcare. It is now one of the
Village agencies working on a pounds 6 million integrated communications
programme for luxury goods company Asprey.
However the greatest interchange on the PR side is with Lowe Bell - not
surprising considering Sir Tim Bell and Maurice Saatchi’s long-term
partnership in marketing the Conservative Party. But Hurrell would not
be drawn on any Village involvement in the forthcoming election
He says that the service is likely to appeal to more ‘complex’ clients
and gives examples of campaigns for PPP, British Airways and Gallaher
Tobacco - although none of these involve PR.
Karen Earl, whose sports sponsorship agency worked with Saatchi on the
Gallaher account, was also introduced to Asprey for a four-month
consultancy on its sponsorship of the Ferrari Formula One team.
Earl says: ‘It is a valuable account. The Village provides financial
gain without financial commitment. Instead there’s a mutual exchange of
respect between agencies.’
Hurrell believes this loose-knit, egalitarian approach to be effective:
‘The agencies working on an account will be doing so because they’re
best suited to the job rather than because we own them.’
Nevertheless he sees M&C Saatchi as responsible for a degree of quality
control: ‘We remain the guardian of the brand. The Village facilitates
communication through media in which we are not experts.’
There are no formal meetings but Hurrell says that he talks to other
partners ‘all the time’.
‘We keep integration tight for our clients - it is a loose knit set-up
but it shouldn’t feel that way.’
Earl sees the Village becoming more disciplined as it gains momentum.
‘I would envisage more regular meetings and I’d be happy to get more
involved, although I remain wary of joint pitches,’ she says.
Hurrell believes that the demand for this type of integration service is
driven by clients that want to make better use of their depleted
resources. M&C Saatchi co-ordinates agencies on their behalf.
What does the future hold? Hurrell is optimistic, saying: ‘We’re
learning all the time. We may add new agencies, but we’re more likely to
add new categories.’
Case study: Cute kids have them flocking to Safeway
The cherubic face of Safeway’s toddler ‘Harry’ has been gracing our
screens for almost two years now and few won’t have heard about his
romance with, and ultimate replacement by, two year-old ‘Molly’.
‘When Harry met Molly’ has been one of the most talked about advertising
campaigns of the year and is a prime example of using PR to explain, and
add value to, advertising strategy.
Earlier in the Spring, Safeway had decided to broaden its pounds 2
million Harry campaign by introducing the new character.
‘The ads are designed to tell a story,which presents us with significant
PR opportunities,’ says Safeway brand manager Karen Bray.
The relaunch of Safeway’s advertising was tied in with its annual
results. The retailer formed an integrated marketing team that brought
together its brand marketing, corporate affairs and media functions,
along with ad agency Bates Dorland and PR consultants Countrywide.
Alicen Ridsdill-Smith, senior consultant at Countrywide says: ‘We had a
group of professionals coming from different angles. The relaunch
required a great deal of planning so our central messages could be
targeted at the various audiences. We all realised that meticulous
planning would be paramount.’
The new advertising, which broke on Wednesday 15 May, was preceded by an
in-store ‘teaser’ campaign and substantial sales promotion activity.
The public relations element was carefully timed. Safeway briefed trade
press on the Monday morning, and in the afternoon Countrywide held a
full-scale press conference for the consumer media at BAFTA, along with
a photocall with the Harry and Molly actors.
On Tuesday Safeway announced its annual results and a corporate name
change from Argyll to Safeway plc, backed by another photocall in which
chief executive Colin Smith sat with the child stars on a bouncy castle.
Regionally Countrywide ran a media relations campaign based on the cute
one-liners that toddlers come out with.
The result was a period of intensive coverage for Safeway and Thursday
saw many of the national financial pages featuring the PR photograph.
There was even an element of crisis management as a group of Labour MP’s
attacked the child-led advertising as exploitative.
Ridsdill-Smith says it was the first time that she had given a high
level of strategic input to an integrated board. Asked whether there was
a clash of advertising and PR egos she replies carefully, ‘There was an
interchange of opinions but everyone was aiming at the same objective.’
‘The project encompassed a lot of different disciplines,’ says Karen
Bray, ‘It was also genuinely multi-media as we used stores as media
channels in their own right and even put information out on the
Internet. Although it is too early for quantitative research, we know
that the campaign has been very well received.’