Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The PR versus advertising debate

PR and advertising belong to two separate camps. PR agencies tell clients PR’s better, while ad agencies tell clients advertising’s better. What then does a PR person for an ad agency tell people then?

Note: I’m not comparing agencies which leverage on both disciplines to provide an integrated offering. I’m talking about dedicated PR agencies and dedicated advertising agencies.

Was having lunch with a PR person who works at an ad agency yesterday and he agreed it’s a slight difficulty, having to explain his job scope to people without putting advertising down.

A conversation on this topic would go something like this:

Advertising person: What’s so good about PR?
PR person: Coz it’s the most economical way to reach mass audiences.

Advertising person: So you mean advertising is expensive?
PR person: Erm, oops, no. But, erm, PR attracts public interest.

Advertising person: Isn’t that what advertising does?
PR person: Hold on, PR creates long-term results.

Advertising person: And advertising is a short term thing...?
PR person: Well, people regard companies more favourably when they read about them in a positive editorial spread and that pays off in the long term.

Advertising person: Now you’re insulting me. Are you saying advertising is biased? But advertising is based on truth!
PR person: [sigh] That’s not what I mean.

Sure, any marketer worth his salt will know you need both advertising and PR to build your brand or promote your product, but the truth is the two camps do play down each other’s strengths to get the client to put money with them – they are, afterall, fighting for a cut of the same marketing budget.

Thing is, even in an agency such as O&M, which has Ogilvy PR, my understanding is each division has its own P&L to watch and it’ll be interesting to find out how each division manages to sell itself without drawing the inevitable comparisons.


The Media Slut said...

themediaslut never liked using Blogspot because it doesn't provide trackback features.

themediaslut's take on the PR vs Advertising debate can be found at

Benjamin Koe said...

BlogSpot does have trackbacks, they call them backlinks. But if you want to trackback to this post, you can just use the permalink.

Anyway, thanks Debbie for entertaining post. What I can add is that you're only talking about the marketing portion of PR which competes with advertising. But why not have both if budget allows? Strategic communications goes way beyond competing with ads.