The communications briefing: Trust issues and AI threaten the PR profession, Huntsworth buys Dublin agency

PR news this week, with thanks to Early Morning Media 

Industry

European Communication Monitor 2019 reveals trust issues
A vast majority of PR professionals feel trusted by their colleagues, bosses and internal clients, as well as by external stakeholders and audiences, according to the European Communication Monitor 2019, the world's largest study into strategic communication and public relations. However, the report revealed that the profession is only trusted by 67% of top executives and a minority of influencers and bloggers (47%), journalists (39%) and ordinary consumers (27%), and that artificial Intelligence is expected to significantly impact the profession. Professor Ansgar Zerfass, lead researcher of the study, commented: "In the light of declining trust in the mass media, this year's European Communication Monitor reveals a striking trust gap in the communications profession: Communication professionals feel trusted by their personal interaction partners, but expect low levels of trust in the branch among the general population. Enabling trustworthy advocates to communication functions and enhancing organisational transparency where appropriate are becoming key tasks for communication practitioners."
PR Newswire

ASA sees increase in complaints about online ads
Complaints about online advertising increased by 41% last year, the Advertising Standards Agency reported, with 14,257 ads attracting 16,059 objections. The watchdog’s annual report noted, by way of comparison, that 5,748 television ads attracted 10,773 complaints. “We’ll continue to focus on misleading content and inappropriate targeting,” officials said in the report, adding: “But we’ll also be open to thinking beyond that, for example seeking to work more closely with the large online platforms so we help each other to protect people from irresponsible ads”. A separate study, from Conversant found that 29% of UK consumers think poorly of brands when they produce what they see as bad advertising, while 44% said they would like to see fewer ads overall.
The Times   Prolific London 

Shareholder groups urge pay revolt at S4 Capital
Shareholder advisory groups Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services called on investors to reject S4 Capital’s pay policy, the company set up by Sir Martin Sorrell last year, following his departure from WPP. Ahead of S4’s first annual meeting this month, Glass Lewis expressed concerns about pay strategy, including “complex vesting conditions”, which put no limits on individual rewards. A spokeswoman for S4 said its pay policy was “consistent with the UK corporate governance provision of promoting long-term shareholdings by executive directors, aligned with long-term shareholder interests”. The Times

Dublin PR firm sold for at least $17.4m
Huntsworth acquired an 85% stake in Dublin-based PR agency Kyne, for an initial $17.4m (€15.6m). The group, which also provides patient advocate services, will now sit in Huntsworth’s marketing division and will continue to be led by Mr Kyne. Put and call options – which will allow Huntsworth to acquire the remaining 15% stake for an already agreed price – will be exercisable in April each year from 2023.
Irish Times

PR firms urged to hire Millennials
Simon Peck, group MD at Engine, said public relations should look to hire millennials if they wish to understand the customers of today – and the future. He said that not only are millennials “more socially, ethically, and environmentally conscious than their predecessors – this is the generation that coined the term ‘woke’ after all – they’re also more independent thinkers, willing to disrupt the status quo in favor of a more sensible solution, be it dating apps over dinner dates or Airbnb over hotels”.
Yahoo News

Campaigns

Sperm banks riff on notions of masculinity to attract donors
Sperm banks are trying to make donating seem masculine in a bid to draw men in, according to a new study in Marketing Theory. In the UK and Australia, clinics are not allowed to pay men to donate sperm, so are trying to entice donors by depicting them as selfless, or heroic. Research from City University, led by Dr Laetitia Mimoun, said that by using ideas of masculinity, advertisers can create value for something they can't buy with money. “This is to say that if you give your sperm you are a real man and you are better than all the other men who cannot do so for whatever reason”, Dr Mimoun said, going on to add: “It's very interesting that sperm banks are able to procure sperm for free as long as they sell it as a way to affirm the masculinity of donors, especially in today's context when the notion of masculinity is constantly challenged”.
Daily Mail

Technology

The pun-loving computer programs that write adverts
BBC News looked at how companies are using natural language generation algorithms to produce machine-written advertising copy. Audrey Kuah, managing director of Dentsu Aegis Network, said the company began “feeding” an algorithm with editorial headlines and idioms from travel articles, to see if it could learn “more flowery” language. "Our ambition is to train this AI [artificial intelligence] copywriter to learn how to inject a little bit of that human creativity, which today is taken out of the search advertising system because it may not be so readily rewarded," she said. Companies generally welcome the greater use of AI, said Parry Malm, chief executive of Phrasee, an AI-powered copywriting firm; an AI-generated email subject line for a Virgin Holidays campaign – “Shop the sale-don’t hang around, book today!” – continuously outperformed a human-written one over a testing period, he says. "Ongoing testing resulted in a revenue increase of several million pounds for their email campaigns – which Virgin Holidays has confirmed was a direct result of using Phrasee's AI technology for email marketing", said Mr Malm.
BBC News

AI sends a wake-up call to ad industry
Russell Glenister, founder and chief executive of machine learning specialist Curation Zone, argued that for the advertising industry to survive, it must embrace technology and AI, especially when it comes to finding and working with the best creative talent. On behalf of brands looking for content producers, his company uses machine learning, neural network-based systems, and other AI technologies to analyse filmmaker data from across the internet, narrowing the field down to suggest the most appropriate filmmakers or video influencers for the brand to choose from. “Our system makes first degree connections with over a million filmmakers. Even the best agencies only have first degree associations with a maximum of 50 individuals”, he says.
Real Business

L’Oreal infuses online advertising with AI
L’Oreal Group recently hired 2,000 staff as part of its drive to make data-driven marketing and advertising a key part of its strategy. Working with AI-chatbot company Automat and one of Google’s ad platforms called AdLingo, L’Oréal will be able to interact with consumers through display advertising on approximately 1bn websites. Customers who choose to engage with the brand through Facebook Messenger will first be asked to pick what product category (face care, body care, sun care or hair care) they are interested in. Then they will be guided through a more complete skin diagnostic before the chatbot provides product recommendations, dermatological advice and product explanations.
Middle East Beauty

And finally…

Howzat! Cricket Australia leans on UK PR firms
Cricket Australia is meeting several UK-based PR agencies to author a contingency plan to deal with Steve Smith and David Warner's return to the international scene. CA's head of public affairs, Karina Keisler, hit London this week to meet with boutique and larger PR firms, including Hill+Knowlton Strategies, while the governing body braces for a frosty reception from the English press ahead of the national men's team defending both the World Cup and the Ashes on foreign soil.
Sydney Morning Herald

This briefing has been prepared by Early Morning Media.  If you are interested in a customised bespoke news briefing for you or your client across any vertical, please contact Charles.Webster@earlymorningmedia.co.uk