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Sensationalist Ad Hater Headline Here

Super Bowl season is right around the corner as everyone who doesn’t live under a rock or in a perpetual hallucinatory state knows. Even me, a staunch hockey-only fan, can’t escape the ebb and flow of the communication efforts that surround the Super Bowl like a pr/ad gravitational pull. Uh, within limits, of course, I actually have a hockey game Sunday night that I’ll gladly be lacing my skates up for.

But my real reason for writing is this. I just wrote a seemingly anti-ad post, followed by a rather defensive comment. But it wasn’t the ads or concepts of ads I was opposing; it was the obnoxious way in which they’re forced upon us.

Truth be told, they can work. Julia Hood from PRWeek US wrote a great article (subscription required?) titled It’s not taboo for PR to admit that ads do work sometimes. Which, besides being a fantistic title, is also true. She goes into detail about buying a pair of Bose headphones. In addition to telling us how much Julia is willing to pay for a pair of headphones, it also tells us that PR pros are capable of paying attention to ads. She writes:

“What drove me to Bose’s online ordering page wasn’t the ad alone. It was the brand’s power, as understood through multiple channels over time, including product placement, ads, word of mouth, and media mentions.”

And that is the power of PR to which I was referring in my aforementioned blog comment. It’s a complicated network of messages over time. It’s no wonder ROI is so crazy and unpredictable. You can only really ever bet on the largest category of subjects to respond to any certain mix of stimuli at any snapshot in time. And what a ridiculous bet that would be! You’d never take those odds in Vegas, ever.

And this is also why I think an integrated marketing approach is the best, most solid, and respectable approach to the bottom line of any organization. Ads alone won’t do it, PR alone may won’t do it, R&D won’t do it, the brand alone won’t do it. C’mon, if it were that easy, wouldn’t we have already done it?

And I hate to admit it, but blogs and podcats aren’t the answer either. New tools are fantastic resources and present outstanding opportunties to convey messages in different ways, but it comes down to the message and the audience. And that’s another great power of PR, it should be the steward of your organization/brand message. PR is more than publicity, it is the champion for your communication efforts. Call it marketing communication if you want, but you’re missing something. It’s the whole process of communicating to every possible public (think target audience) that needs to hear your message. I also feel that PR folk need to be able to be the unpopular kids at the table and keep the strategy on track, regardless of how new or cool something is. If it doesn’t fit the message, don’t do it. So, in conclusion, I’ll wrap up with Julia’s concluding statement:

“Don’t be afraid to admit that ads sometimes work and blogs sometimes don’t. In order to secure their future, PR pros need to be the bravest people in the room and tell it like it really is.”

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4 Responses

  1. If corporations really want to make consumers happy, they should forego costly Super Bowl ads and instead invest in a Chief Customer Officer, a single person of power charged with putting him or herself in the customers’ mind.

    But instead they spend their time and money making sure their ad is funny and entertaining, which doesn’t mean it sells more products. A good marketer surprises consumers by giving them new ideas on how and why to use a particular product. Ads developed by typical people or starring famous celebrities may get laughs, but are unlikely to generate sales. For every dollar you spend you should be seeing a dollar back and I sincerely doubt that these companies are generating an additional $2.6 million due to these Super Bowl ads.

    Marketers need to stop thinking that marketing HAS to be creative. It HAS to sell goods and services. Sometimes the least creative marketing is the most effective.

    Mark Stevens
    CEO of MSCO
    http://www.msco.com/blog

  2. Mark,
    I don’t fundamentally disagree with anything you said. My head knows you’re right. But my funny bone appreciates the humorous ads. From the consumer side, I enjoy watching entertaining ads and I gladly put up with them simply because they’re entertaining and they make most of my tv/radio free. I don’t patronize .0005% of the ads I see on television, but find them more bearable because they entertain. I’m never going to consciously buy pissy bear, but I enjoy a clever ad campaign.
    From the marketing standpoint, I wholeheartedly agree. Super Bowl ads don’t sell products and they’ll never hit the 1:1 dollar ratio. I’ve seen good, effective ads air during the Super Bowl and have always thought – like most people – “what the hell was that?” People expect to be wowed by certain ads, not wooed into buying things. But marketers like the buzz, I guess.
    Ha, and never tell a creative ads don’t have to be creative, that’s all they have to live for sometimes. And many marketers know that the least creative can be most effective or else I wouldn’t be getting all this junk mail every day. I mean, somebody has to be buying this crap.
    I like your idea of the CCO, an important piece so many agencies are missing.
    Thanks for dropping in.

  3. And what a boring bunch of ads they gave us this year!

  4. Here we go again. From what I have heard, get ready for more of the same.

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