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Softly softly catchee consumer… September 18, 2007

Posted by BCME UK in PR.

Advertising’s a funny thing isn’t it? A bit like shouting something out at a party: get it right and everyone laughs with you, or at least tries to remember what you said to pass it on to a friend. Get it wrong and… well, you’d better hope that not that many people were listening.

The problem is the turn around time. No doubt that when the creative team behind Northern Rock’s latest ad came up with it they were pretty chuffed. ‘playtime is over’ it announces, loud and proud across two pages in Esquire magazine (amongst others) this month, with various Newcastle-based sporting heroes staring out of the page. Unfortunately, within days of the magazine going on sale events have given the advert a radically alternative interpretation and now it will have to sit there, visible to anyone who reads the magazine for the next month or so.

That’s the danger with advertising; it’s a juggernaut. The time taken between concept and release leaves it wide open to the various cruelties of fate. Don’t get me wrong – adverts are often fantastic, hitting their mark exactly. I don’t need to give examples – we all have our personal favourites, but ultimately there is an element of luck in hoping that between commissioning, producing and placing the work, no potholes appear in the road. Equally the result of the process can be very hit or miss with some great ideas meeting stony silence while other infinitely less deserving pieces become inexplicable hits – like Barry Scott.

In many ways PR is everything that ad land is not: Immediate, super-targeted and above all, when done right, invisible. Hot topics can be picked up and run with almost instantly; messages can be weaved into stories within hours; the effect is far more powerful than any advertisement because done right consumers don’t even know that it is happening. It’s the drip-drip-drip of the brand message as it makes its way into their consciousness.

Of course things can go wrong, but unlike advertising the cause of this is usually traceable and, crucially, fixable. The best thing about journalists? They are the charcoal filter through which a brand’s story has to pass before it makes it out there. If a story doesn’t make it through it’s no bad thing. If anything you’ve been done a favour: instead you get to go back to it, refine it and resubmit it when it’s ready. Imagine if you could do that with an ad…



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