Advertising or PR?

I needed a good cup of coffee after reading a story by Globe and Mail reporter Jennifer Wells about a new Maxwell House advertising campaign entitled ‘Brew Some Good’.

It turns out the ad agency decided to go minimalist with its TV spot, spending $19,000 on production and then trumpeting (in the ad) that the average TV commercial costs $245,000.

So with all that money saved, what do they do?

  • Stage a free celebrity concert near a busy Toronto subway station (great photo opp) with a substantial donation to a well-known charity
  • Offer 10,000 consumers who visit that station a free subway ride hoping they’ll pay it forward by doing another good deed later that day
  • Announce an online contest seeking nominations for a worthy charity to receive $10,000

It all sounds good to the last drop. But there was a vague familiarity to the elements: third-party celebrity endorser, corporate social responsibility, media relations, word of mouth, low-budget production values.

Forgive me for raining on the parade, but this sounds like a PR program. And sure enough, an award-winning Toronto PR agency was listed on the advisory and news release.

But there’s no mention of their contribution in Canada’s national newspaper.

This led me to wonder: With the demise of conventional TV spots, is big advertising trying to claim the PR space? And what will that model do to the relationships we work so hard to build? To the credibility of open, two-way communications?

I think this is an opportunity for PR professionals to demonstrate our worth and shout the gospel of Al and Laura Ries from the rooftops to the boardrooms.

I just hope we don’t stay in the background; subservient to the almighty ad.

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3 thoughts on “Advertising or PR?

  1. Now, I’m a novice when it comes to PR (and don’t actually work in the field), but a lot of what I’ve been reading lately claims that good PR should be invisible. Shouldn’t the message be about the product, or at least the company behind the product?

  2. Thanks for your comment. I actually think that rather than being ‘anonymous’, PR should be transparent. And the company and/or brand being promoted should always take centre stage.However, in this case, I was referring to an article that profiled the ad agency that ‘created’ the campaign and wondered why a PR agency wasn’t also included in this marketing-focused story.

  3. Is it about it being a turf war then? PR vs Advertising – the final showdown? If this is the case, I’m going to have to colour in my grey-shaded definitions of the two practices and choose a side.Martin, I hear what you’re saying and have read what Al and Laura Ries have written, but because there is often no clear line between the disciplines, how can PR practitioners effectively respond? The only way I can see, is simply by being successful – creating such harmonious two-way communications, ad agencies will buckle.

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