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At the heart of the action

Richard Brett, Shine
Richard Brett, Shine

PR, with its wide-ranging expertise, is no longer an also-ran to a savvy brand's advertising push, but one of the best-placed disciplines to be the driving force in a highly effective integrated campaign, writes Shine's Richard Brett

What do brands need in order to thrive today? Awareness, naturally, but also credibility, sound positioning, customer engagement and big ideas.

Achieving this requires a truly integ­rated cross-agency approach in which different disciplines coll­aborate harmoniously rather than waging a turf war. Understandably, brand-owners find few things less savoury than watching agency partners jostling for position.

The best agencies respect the skills of their accomplished peers and enjoy interacting with them, and the client’s in-house team, to deliver results that meet and often exceed objectives. Each discipline can offer plenty of valuable input.

Yet the way in which we talk to consumers is changing rapidly. Media fragmentation, coupled with the social-media and digital revolution, means old approaches no longer work in isolation. Boundaries are blurring: a silo mentality belongs to yesteryear.

While advertising still delivers tremendous results, there has been a clear move away from traditional ads to a dialogue model across multiple touch­points. As a result, the strategic and creative leader­ship once bestowed on ad agencies is being more widely dispersed.

PR agencies, with expertise in areas such as social-media engage­ment and experiential marketing, are increasingly well-placed to be the driving force in an integrated team. Studies – Micu (2005), Lord and Putrevu (1997) – have shown that consumers see editorial cover­age as far more credible than adver­tising and it achieves higher recall, thereby deepening relationships.

Loda and Carrick’s study (2005) concluded that the sequence of publicity, then advertising, had a more powerful impact in terms of message acceptance and response, so editorial should always run first in an integrated campaign.

These days, it’s not about PR being used just to amplify ad campaigns; rather, it can be at the heart of or set the agenda, float an idea or create a buzz that is then consolidated via other channels.

Evidence of PR’s growing status is mounting. In 2009, in the teeth of the recession, UK PR agency income grew by 0.75% (PR Week Top 150, 2010), whereas adspend dropped 10% in the 12 months to September 2009 (Nielsen).

At Shine, our belief that PR is becoming more of a mar­comms heavy-hitter is manifest in our investment in our strategic and planning team, Shine1.

Late last year, Shine1 commis­sioned research among marketing direc­tors about the changing role of PR in light of the social media revolu­tion. It found that many marketers view PR as more crucial than adver­tising – asked which discip­line they relied on, PR scored 5.75 out of 10, compared with 4.75 for ad­vertising. PR is gaining respect as a driver of integrated communica­tions: respondents ranked it sec­ond after the internal marketing team. On who should drive for­ward social media, nine out of 10 said PR agencies were best suited to carry out work in this area.

Martini’s ‘Stay beautiful’ activity provides a compelling example of PR’s ability to play a central role in an integrated campaign.

Briefed to reignite passion for the brand among 25- to 45-year-old women, lead agency Shine provided creative direction and strategic counsel across mark­eting disciplines to create a seam­lessly integrated communications campaign with agency partners Exposure and UM. We identified actress Thandie Newton as the ideal balance of elegance, style and composure to embody the ‘Stay beautiful’ con­cept, and secured her as Martini’s 2009 ambassador.

Specially commissioned research that revealed a new wave of women were turning their backs on ‘ladette’ culture was used to secure editorial coverage for the brand across an array of media.

Advertorials were placed in high-end, influential women’s media titles; behind-the-scenes footage from a Thandie Newton photoshoot was seeded online. Social-network initiatives included fashion and beauty tips and fan-site collaborations; and partnerships with brands such as Vespa, Toni&Guy and Pomegreat were used to extend campaign reach and add value for consumers through exclusive content.

Mark Holdsworth, marketing controller for Martini for the campaign, said it ‘delivered stand­out for the brand for the first time in years, and was a great example of PR leading an effective integ­rated communica­tions campaign’.

The activity, which has been shortlisted for several awards, sparked a sales jump across the Martini portfolio – the highest in a decade – and provided further proof that PR should be at the heart of an integrated approach.

Richard Brett, director, Shine

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