’A campaign associated with a new product launch is probably a less
arduous challenge than changing public opinion about the reputation of
an old established organisation,’suggested the publicity blurb of the
Marketing/PRCA, PR Effectiveness Awards.
While I applaud the awards - particularly that bit about
’effectiveness’, I can’t agree wholeheartedly with the statement.
Just about every PR practitioner I know has sat in a room with either a
prospect or an existing client and been asked to launch or achieve
coverage for a new product which, in essence, represents a marginal
change in a marginal market place.
’We want fabulous coverage for our marvellous widget’, the cry goes
This is a real challenge. In comparison revamping the image of the
Mothers’ Union, the Women’s Institute or Help the Aged sounds like a
piece of cake. PR is so often about the perverse, the quirky. The fact
you are revamping the Mother’s Union is a story in itself.
Generic and ’good cause’ entries often fare well in industry
This is great but these sorts of campaigns frequently benefit from a
higher degree of residual interest from the media and the public. The
new breakfast cereal, the slightly different variant of a fizzy drink,
the new motor model with just one or two new features - are often the
more testing briefs.
I believe awards make a very valid contribution to our industry and
offer a vital showcase. However, I would like to suggest some
alternative award categories - to truly reflect some of the ultimate
challenges all of us have been presented with at sometime or other.
The Successful Second Year Award, for instance. The campaign launch may
have been fabulous (possibly even award winning), but reinvigorating the
message and keeping up the momentum is an equal task.
And what about in the years after that? So often the focus of awards is
on short, sharp, shock campaigns, not hardworking, long-running
programmes that succeed because of the commitment and creativity of the
consultancy over years and sometimes, decades.
Of course, such campaigns don’t usually excel in the sex appeal
There are other reasons, I think, why there is a tendency for them not
to appear on the honours board. One is that such programmes don’t
usually have the neat beginning, middle and end so beloved of case study
If only communications were that tidy.
Also, sadly, we now live in world where short termism reigns. Quick ’in’
and ’out’ saturation campaigns seem to be the vogue, even if they are
not always the most strategically effective.
Specialism is growing in the industry but I do think that some of the
best campaigns involve work across all the divisions of full service
Very few awards provide a suitable category for such a
multi-disciplinary, integrated approach.
Finally the award for campaigns with the Least Promising Support
Last year’s PRCA Awards were a case in point. While I don’t doubt the
professionalism and competence of all the winners, some had been handed
some pretty juicy goods: the first ever football investment trust; a TV
advertising icon in the shape of a fluffy puppy, and the UK’s largest
ever TV sponsorship, to name but a few.
They were all fabulous campaigns, but we should be honouring the
campaigns where real originality and ingenuity have won the day. These
are the clients, issues and products that really test a PR person’s