Magazine article Marketing

Turning Ads into Talking Points

Magazine article Marketing

Turning Ads into Talking Points

Article excerpt

PR agencies are wising up to the headline potential of some campaigns.

Smart clients always make sure their PR and advertising work well together. After all, integrated campaigns are the most trusted way of achieving consistency of image and message.

There are many ways in which PR and advertising can work smoothly in tandem. But one strategy which has really snowballed in recent years is using PR to generate editorial coverage of advertising campaigns.

A decade ago there were very few examples of this amplifying technique. That changed when Jackie Cooper PR helped turn TBWA's saucy Wonderbra 'Hello Boys' posters of statuesque supermodel Eva Herzigova into a national talking point, hooking into the laddish mood as effectively as Loaded or FHM.

Now it seems that everyone is playing the same game. PR agency Propeller Marketing Communications keeps track of the activity in this area by carrying out a quarterly 'Ads That Make News' survey (see box, page 30). For the last three months of 1998 alone, Propeller found that national newspapers ran 151 pictures reproduced from ads. These were from 82 separate campaigns.

Of course, the coverage need not just be in the print media. Ray Gardener, the combative character created for Tango's TV ads, fatuously appeared on Chris Evans' show TFI Friday. And entertainment-style programmes are often happy to preview ads if they feature interesting content, particularly involving a celebrity.

One of the best examples of PR generating coverage for a commercial last year was the Renault Clio advertisement featuring comedians Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer at Nicole's wedding.

Beer Davies Publicity sent around 3000 wedding invitations to national and local press, asking journalists to join Papa at the wedding of his beloved daughter, Nicole, on Friday May 29 on ITV at 7.40pm, and inviting them to attend a pre-wedding breakfast at the Savoy the day before, where the ad was unveiled. The story appeared in every national paper except the Financial Times and The Independent and even made the front page of the Evening Standard. To add to the fun, members of Nicole's internet fan club also attended the event carrying 'Don 't do it Nicole!' banners.

"We treated it as if it was a proper wedding," says Beer Davies partner Eugen Beer."But even we were flabbergasted by the coverage we got."

Clients' growing realisation that they can make their advertising go further by giving it a PR spin is changing the way agencies interact. "Big brands often try to encourage their agencies to work together," says Lexis PR managing director Hugh Birley. "The client has to drive it and set the ground rules because there's always initially a certain amount of protectionism by agencies."

For Gordon's gin, Lexis developed the first scented cinema commercial using what it commonly described as 'aromarama'. This unusual approach achieved coverage on four national TV stations, four national radio stations and in 13 national newspapers.

But there is little doubt that the media is wising up to the technique. After all, editorial coverage for advertising is rather like giving away free ad space. Better, in fact, from the client's viewpoint because by putting, the advertising into an editorial environment, the programme or publication is implicitly endorsing it.

Aware of this, media owners are not as easily swayed as they used to be. "People see the trick coming now and are more jaundiced to the whole idea of it," says Mark Borkowski, founder of Mark Borkowski Press & PR. "Some of the brand PRs don't understand what it takes to have the contacts with the media to pull it off."

Borkowski's agency achieved coverage for the Nissan Almera TV commercials which parodied 70s cop shows The Sweeney and The Professionals. The campaign launched in the style of a movie premiere, complete with 70s theme party and a screening of the ads, together with a feature-length Sweeney movie. …

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