Ad agency VCCP has poached Resonate co-founder Graham Drew to launch PR capability, in the latest sign that the two worlds are moving closer together.
Drew makes the move after six years as creative director at sister Chime-owned firm Resonate and becomes one of the highest-profile moves from PR to advertising.
He pointed out that he had not, however, 'forsaken' the world of PR. He said: 'I've gone to spread the gospel. The two worlds are moving a lot closer together, fuelled in large part by social media.'
Drew becomes head of PR at VCCP, overseeing the comms element of the agency's marketing campaigns. His move comes after VCCP and Resonate began co-operating on campaigns in 2009.
'It can be done to a degree through all-agency meetings,' said Drew. 'But to really do it, you need to be here and working alongside creatives and planners from the beginning.'
His role will not, he asserted, see VCCP attempt to compete with PR agencies: 'A lot of activation will still be farmed back into (Resonate parent) Bell Pottinger Group.'
In recent years, there has been a steady stream of advertising people entering the PR industry, most notably from the planning discipline. These include Weber Shandwick planning director Matty Tong and Edelman planning director Will Humphrey, both of whom previously worked at ad agency Lowe.
Tong said Drew's decision was something that PR agencies should be watching carefully.
'PR agencies have to demonstrate to senior marketing officers that the PR agencies are best-placed to understand the value of a well-thought-through, integrated campaign,' she said. 'I can certainly see the appeal of working in advertising, to someone from PR.'
To date, most of the cross-over from PR to advertising has centred on social media skills.
Agencies such as MindShare, Tribal DDB and Dare have all hired social media talent in recent months.
Last year, VCCP and Resonate formed Icon, a joint venture focusing on social media comms.
'To be brutally honest, this felt far more exciting than what I was doing,' added Drew. 'All of a sudden, you have the opportunity to be part of a campaign that is much bigger than the world you play in for PR.'
How I see it
DOMINIC STINTON, Group MD, VCCP
If we want our advertising output to work harder, we need the skills of PR people in-house.
What's critical is that Drew is involved in idea generation.
If we demonstrate to clients how their work will be more PR-able, then we are not competing with PR agencies.
ANGELA WATTS, VP, marketing and communications, Spotify
The decision by a leading ad agency to employ a senior comms professional as head of PR within campaign developments should not come as a surprise to anyone. The results of a decent comms campaign are often more engaging and influential than most other forms of marketing.
78 marketing directors were surveyed by Shine Communications
73% believe PR is more effective at changing brand perceptions
63% said they would turn to advertising to boost sales
60% believe PR is cost-effective
Source: Shine Communications marketing director survey