COMMENT: PLATFORM; Why PR deserves parity of status in ad culture

PR can be a cost-effective way of maximising the impact of new ad campaigns if it is brought in at the very start, says Martin Loat

PR can be a cost-effective way of maximising the impact of new ad

campaigns if it is brought in at the very start, says Martin Loat

Flicking through the Sun on 27 April I came across a page and a half

story plugging the new Ryvita commercial where a woman strips off in an

airport terminal. ‘Luton Bareport’ screamed the headline above pictures

of a spoof of the ad, the original version and Ryvita branding and


It may not be a politically correct ad, but the PR meets the Propeller

definition of ‘PC’ - it is ‘publicity correct’. It takes the client’s

commercial and cost-effectively maximises its communications impact by

rolling out the image in editorial space in Britain’s biggest-selling


This is bread and cracker media relations. But for every Ryvita ad there

are hundreds guaranteed to send the Currant Bun’s readers to sleep.

Too many clients run their advertising and PR tracks separately, only

calling in their PR teams to ‘get some coverage’ for their ads at the

last minute in the belief that their ad agency has come up with

something that might win editorial, as well as paid-for space. Sadly,

often the PR people find that the ad has not got what it takes to make a

story and only a big budget will get it on TV and in the papers.

Clients and their agents must go beyond seeing PR for their ads as ‘a

bit of editorial coverage’ to chuck in when the campaign breaks and work

it in at the beginning of the campaign planning stage instead.

Obviously advertising creatives are naturally attuned to producing ads

that fit the chosen media strategy above-the-line, be that TV, cinema,

posters, press or whatever. Clients should demand that the ads work

below-the-line in media relations exploitation too.

Propeller’s study of this area in our quarterly ‘Ads That Make News’

survey has revealed that the big three ingredients that help an ad hit

the headlines are sex, celebrities and controversy. Just check out the

coverage for Wonderbra, Gary Lineker’s Walker Crisps and Club 18-30, if

you don’t believe me.

Ads that are banned or attract complaints tend to attract coverage too,

although it doesn’t do for a consultancy MD to suggest this in public.

More wholesomely, or cynically depending on your point of view, children

also sell well with Safeway’s Harry and the mass ranks of babies in the

new Vauxhall Astra ads passing the news editor’s test.

It seems so obvious that media relations experts -usually PR people -

should be in at the planning stage to inject newsworthy hooks into ad

campaigns, it is a wonder more clients don’t insist on it. Maybe they

don’t think this way, maybe they do but their remit excludes PR, perhaps

they just can’t breach the ad agency/PR consultancy divide that exists

in so many corporate structures.

Some clients worry that they can’t control the key messages in media

relations. But without sounding like a ‘never mind the quality, feel the

width’ column inch junkie, I suggest that sometimes a ‘roll with it’

attitude to your product’s positioning might be a worthwhile price to

pay for acres of awareness-building editorial, particularly as it costs

much less than advertising.

Creating ads that make news is a modern marketing technique and its time

has come. For PR consultants so used to playing second fiddle to their

ad agency cousins in campaign planning and strategy, advising on how to

make ads that make news is a great way to win the parity of status we

are due.

Martin Loat is managing director of Propeller Marketing Communications

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