Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Wed, 30 Oct 2002 07:23:19 GMT

While I was on the road over the past couple of weeks I finally got a chance to read, The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR by Al and Laura Ries. I have written and re-written this piece innumerous times. I’m still not sure I’m happy with it, but I present it for your consumption.

In reviewing “The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR” I think the best outcome (for PR) from the book is that it encourages discussion around the merits of Public Relations and in particular PR’s role and effectiveness in a world where the vast majority of marketing dollars and kudos still goes to advertising.

In my own humble opinion, I believe successful marketing requires a multi-discipline approach. I have for over a decade been a strong advocate of Public Relations, but I don’t for one minute believe that PR on its own (except in extraordinary circumstances) can achieve an organization’s entire set of business objectives. Instead I believe that advertising, direct marketing and other tools such as CRM all play a part alongside PR.

I think this is one of the book’s weaknesses. Its arguments sound very like the version of events you’d expect to hear from a kid involved in a fight. It’s all very one-sided. According to the Ries’ Advertising is bad, PR is good. But like any good PR campaign, context is an important element of credibility. Nothing is this simple.

There’s no question that advertising has failed in many cases to grow or halt the decline of brands and businesses, but it’s a little too simplistic to claim that all these commercial failures are simply down to advertising. There are always multiple factors in the success or failure of a business.

Having said that, there is no question that the advertising business has been driven by excess for far too long. There has clearly been an absence of focus on tying spend back to business objectives – whether sales or awareness related. Not that our business is compeltely outside the greenhouse on that score.

It’s a risky strategy to tie your product launch solely onto PR. Factors outside your control can negate PR and that’s why I’m a firm believer in an integrated approach.

Where the Ries’ score highly is the discussion on the size of US advertising budgets. It is absolutely unbelievable the amount spent of advertising.

I also thought the dotcom chapter was interesting. The ultimate case study on why it’s impossible to build an instant brand – it’s the customer stupid. But let’s not forget that our beloved PR brethren took serious money in promoting these failed ventures. Indeed we are lucky that much of the arrogance shown during the period has failed to damage our business – even if many practitioners’ pretentions to be ‘management consultants’ were exposed.

If you’re in the PR business it’s worth a read, however if you’re looking for a strong analytical comparison between Advertising and PR I don’t think this is what you’re looking for.

The fact remains that if you want to offer your client or employer maximum bang per buck, while effectively managing expectations, you’re better being honest about the strengths and weaknesses of all the marketing tools. Remember, King Canute got wet.

John Crudele, the New York Post colunist gives his two cents on the book over at O’Dwyer’s.

Written by Tom Murphy

October 30, 2002 at 8:23 am

Posted in General

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