Thursday, May 3, 2012

You still say hello!

The RepMan thinks AMC's new reality show "The Pitch" (which I have not seen) represents all that is wrong with advertising, and why "advertising is in decline and PR is ascending. Advertising talks at people; PR engages in conversations with them."

Fair enough, and far be it from me to argue with my favorite PR blogger when he insists that PR's more glamorous cousin is viewing its best days in the rearview mirror. It is certainly true that mass advertising has lost its captive audience with the fragmentation of said audience and the rise of on-demand media consumption. You can't talk at people; they'll change the channel, as RepMan so aptly notes.

Yet advertising, done well, is still a great way to kick-start the conversations that those of us in PR so deeply treasure. It's a way of saying "Hello." The great Pittsburgh ad man Ray Werner, in explaining Robert Morris University's Change A Life campaign, described the campaign and its web component as "hook and hang time." The advertising -- including print, TV, radio, and billboards -- lured people to the web site, where the conversation, and hopefuly a relationship, could begin.

The best advertising does that. Think the Old Spice Man commercials, which preceeded a spectacular social media campaign that not only started a conversation, but boosted sales to boot. (Which is kind of the whole idea.)

So yes, the lame kind of top-down, audience-ignorant ad campaigns that RepMan tells us are the grist of "The Pitch" are indeed dying, slow though their death may be. They're like the guy at the end of the bar, wearing too much cologne and spouting bad pick-up lines. But us PR types still a need good wingman once in a while to keep the conversation lively.

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