What I learnt from our Advertising cousins

I’ve just returned from this year’s PRAXIS – now one of the world’s largest gathering of PR professionals.  This prompted the question: What do you call a collection of PR professionals?  I’ll tell you at the end of this article! The PRAXIS agenda was packed with insights and discussion around integration, effective use of content, and real time campaigning.

At the sidelines of the conference, there was also talk about how some big PR firms were gravitating towards advertising.

Since I’ve been fortunate enough to work directly with multiple global advertising agencies, mainly in Europe, I believe there is much that we in the PR business can learn from them.  Here are a few of the things I’ve learnt from our big, boisterous advertising counterparts.

Let me start with the aspect of presentation. What some advertising pitches may – on occasion, lack in terms of strategic insight – always make up for with beautiful, flowing presentations. Advertising professionals are masters at making the aesthetics count; they would never consider cutting and pasting together a slide set with alternating typefaces and poorly designed clip art.  PR professionals often compromise their strategic thinking with uninspiring, dull decks and even worse delivery.  Remember, make the aesthetics count!

The second learning is to do with usage of statistics. “Send in the ‘quants’ (the expert in numbers and ‘quantitative’ statistics) guy…” is a common refrain among many an Account Director, when clients endlessly deliberate on a proposal.  The use of data by Advertising or Above The Line (ATL) professionals – from statistical inferences to quantitative primary research – is a lesson to all PR professionals on how to nail a proposal (and a client) to the wall.  Our insights and propositions may be intuitive, but are those grounded in as much rigour?

In my opinion, the Creative Directors in Advertising agencies always have a drawer permanently full of ideas; they are just waiting for the right client to come along. They instinctively know what will strike a chord with their target audiences. The data is added later to support the proposal. Such ‘reverse fit’ logic is practiced by everyone – from economists to religious sects – who find data points to prove their insights, after the fact is presented. But no one masters it quite like our cousins, who revel in sipping champagne at Cannes.

The third element that we learn is to do with ‘Process’. In the ATL world, from planners and copywriters to researchers and account managers, all teams are structured around clear roles and processes. While this structure cannot be directly transferred to the world of PR – where everyone is client facing – there is much to commend in the ATL system – especially in the areas of operationalising creativity and quality control.

In return, I believe that ATL can learn much from PR’s networkers, bookers and ‘issues jumpers’; but I’ll save that for another article.

Now back to the beginning; what do you call a collection of PR professionals gathered together? A ‘pitch’ of course!

Roger Darashah
Roger Darashah, Chief Operating Officer, Adfactors PR

Roger brings nearly 30 years’ international communications experience to the role of Chief Operating Officer at Adfactors where he is responsible for ensuring consistent and industry-leading levels of service across all client relationships. Going forward, he will support Adfactors PR’s globalisation initiatives and scale operations internationally.

Roger is a genuine ‘global citizen’, speaking English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, who is able to embed deep, first-hand cultural insights as well as best practices from around the globe into his client counsel.

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