I’ve grown up with Advertising. I was born the same year as Ronald McDonald. In the hot Australian summers of the seventies I would sit and watch our black and white TV with the curtains drawn, rote learning all the lines in ads for Selvitex Suits, George’s Discounts, Tip Top Bread and more.
I had a short-lived stand-up career at University and reciting these ads was part of my act. Here are some of them:
In those days, of course, ads were a fixture. On TV at least there was little choice. There were no VCRs so the diet that the two channels served in Canberra (two channels!) was all that you got.
If I went on Mastermind, my specialist subjects would be The Brady Bunch, My Favourite Martian, Green Acres and F Troop.
These days I skip ads in the main. I do watch Mad Men, of course, and I love the unfolding story of the excesses of the ad world in the 1970s. Beyond that I mostly watch TV on demand and fast forward through the breaks.
I’m still influenced in the brand choices that I make but in different ways. I listen in to conversations on Twitter, I ask the opinions of real world and digital friends, I check real reviews from companies like Reevoo and BazaarVoice and read papers and magazines. I’m more interested in what people think about brands than I am about what brands say in their advertising.
To buy a one page ad in a leading national newspaper would cost you around £35,000. On top of that there’s the cost for artwork, creative, strategy, analysis (in no particular order). That’s one ad as part of a wider programme if you’re a big brand. If you’re a smaller business it’s a huge cost – and a hope for the best.
You know I’m going to start making the case for PR now, don’t you?
Imagine for a moment that you were able to lose the costs of the ads but retain the impact. In a way, that’s what I firmly believe that PR can achieve. Our clients pay us monthly retainers or project-related fees based on our time. Everything else just happens. Page leads appear, subliminally making the case for your brand – and more importantly, catalyzing conversations on Twitter and Facebook, building brand awareness, engagement and loyalty.
Sometimes to make our stories fly we have to pay for other things – £15 perhaps to buy a domain name or an Omnibus question to test a hypothesis – but for the most part it is simply about applying our creativity in a way that is going to gently force the hand of an influencer.
For many of our clients the cost of a one-off one page ad in a mid-market paper would equate to a six-month retained programme from us. Our work has led to sales spikes, sell-outs, acquisitions, awards, amazing partnerships, global fame and more.
So I guess this is the equation:
One ad in a national – or six months effort from an award-winning PR agency?
All bias aside, I know which one I’d choose.