Tim-Williams---Photo-1April 18, 2011 | By Tim Williams

iStock_000008326566MediumThe big award winners at Cannes are no longer the blockbuster TV productions, but ideas that straddle the worlds of paid, earned, and owned media.  They are actually PR ideas more than advertising ideas.  The front page of Advertising Age recently summarized the outcome of the Cannes Advertising Festival with this headline: “Cannes swept away by PR, integrated, internet winners.”

If you’re an advertising professional and you’ve ever worked alongside a talented public relations professional, you already know that PR people have a different way of approaching their work.  Most notably, they are the original “media neutral” media executives.  They are much more likely to think of traditional paid media solutions last instead of first.

Working in real time

Advertising people are built to think long term. Brand building takes time.   PR professionals naturally operate in the world of “real time.”  They’re looking at what’s happening to the brand today, not just tomorrow.

Today, marketing is always on.  “Advertising in the future will be much more like PR, observed former Publicis COO Richard Pindner. “We’ll be run more like a daily TV show or an interactive newspaper than an advertising factory.”  As in political campaigns, agencies today need to operate as a nerve center.  Most PR firms are already built on this model; ad agencies must learn to do the same.

You can’t have advertising without public relations

The other point is that in a world of instant comment and criticism, you can’t deploy advertising without also deploying public relations. Because advertising ideas get talked about, you’ll have PR whether you want it or not.  The wall between paid and earned is an artificial one.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky was built on this premise.  The CP+B creative brief asks the question “Will this generate publicity?”  If the answer is no, Crispin scraps the idea and starts over.  Their belief is that publicity is a deliberate primary purpose of advertising, not a secondary hoped-for outcome.

Less “presentation” and more “participation”

The battle over the question “Who owns the social media function?” is over and PR firms have won.  Social media is essentially about reputation management, and that’s the skill set of PR professionals much more than ad professionals.

The explosive growth of social media is one of the primary reasons that the public relations business has been growing, while the traditional advertising agency business has been shrinking. The momentum in marketing is clearly shifting away from paid toward earned and owned.

Advertising executives would do well to learn from their colleagues in PR.  In a lot of ways, PR firms are the advertising agency of the future.

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