Are Ad agencies any good at PR?

At the recently concluded ‘Creativity in PR and marketing conference” in Mumbai, Nitin Mantri, co founder and CEO Avian Media and president, PRCAI said if there is one thing that PR can learn from advertising, it is having a chief creative officer.

While that over-used but necessary term ‘integrated marketing’ is on the lips of every communications professional, PR seems to suffer a bit of an inferiority complex where advertising is concerned, especially around content.

The fact that today’s customer no longer likes one way communication, means that advertising also has had to adapt to this requirement. Nima Namchu, chief creative officer of Havas Worldwide India, part of the US based integrated marketing communications giant, Havas Worldwide, says, "Every action that comes from a brand should deliver good PR."

Adds Namchu, "One-way communication is history and the lines between PR, advertising, and content are fast becoming blurred if not already erased. Around the world, advertising communication is fast evolving from being a completely one-way to being much more engaging and getting consumers to participate in the conversation."

While this is happening at different speeds worldwide, spokespersons from Indian integrated firms such as Id8 media solutions pvt ltd believe that advertising and PR don't mix. Says Tanya Swetta, founder and joint managing director of the firm that, offers both PR and advertising "As an Integrated marketing communication consultancy that first started out with just PR, we believe that while PR and advertising are intricately intertwined, they are also mutually exclusive. This is because PR goes much further in terms of the services it provides whether it is consultation, dispensing advice, image building and management, crisis management, brand promotion. Therefore, it is harder for an advertising firm to be able to deliver PR to a client the way a specialised firm would."

Content: the PR vs. Ad row

Brand content, especially video content, is one area where traditionally advertising is supposed to be better than PR at. Is it really a PR vs. Advertising battle? Naresh Gupta, chief strategy officer at advertising firm, ‘Bang in the Middle’ says , "Let me see this from a different perspective.The two have different skills, but in the end both work towards making the brand connect with consumers. PR is a lot about opinions and advocacy and yes, that is an area where advertising agencies are not traditionally skilled, and these are areas of specialised skills that PR agencies have. The great overlap is in areas of brands, where content and advertising comes together. This is where PR will benefit immensely if they have access to an ad agency."

Gupta concludes by saying, " Would PR work better if it had access to an advertising agency? That is what happens in real life, the best PR is delivered when advertising and PR agency collaborates on a brief."

Namchu agrees that there are benefits to learning from advertising about content mainly, "The importance of the right tone of voice, storytelling, execution and the constant need to come up with something totally fresh and new."

Apart from content, PR professionals like Swetta admit that digital is one thing that still eludes PR, "The PR industry is yet to accelerate it’s integration with digital marketing the way advertising has done. The need for integration with digital marketing is dire as its results are permanent, gaugeable and offer a higher ROI. Digital marketing is a game changer that needs to be carefully infused with traditional PR services as the most successful campaigns are those that make the best use of all available platforms."

PR and advertising have always had completely different end goals in mind, now as these goals merge, it’s a challenge for the two sides to learn from each other.

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