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BBDO comes up with “Antsvertising”

19th July 2013

I missed this completely when first it made its way into the world. But having poked around the winners of the award shows, it resurfaced and was such a gem of an idea that I thought that I’d give it an airing.

The schtick is a simple one.

BBDO made a load of leaves with environmental messages cut out of them.

Then, in a campaign for WWF, they popped them in an enclosure full of leaf cutter ants at Cologne German zoo.

Then they filmed the ants carrying the leaves with the messages emblazoned upon them.

Genius …

What was interesting, as ever, was that the work was devised by advertising creative but was inherently social, experiential and just generally a brilliant idea.

But what got me interested was the fact that, while it got some decent pick-up in the media, most of that was for BBDO winning a Cannes Lion for the campaign, rather than for the campaign itself.

Which when you think about it is a bit odd. Really.

So I come back to an age old theme. If there is anything that we in PR have felt threatened by over the last few years, it’s been advertising and digital agencies moving onto “our” patch. By developing content, by moving into social and starting to create experiential ideas that get people talking.

The PR response has been of course to think “ah, given this is the case, we should race to develop these skills where we don’t have them already”. Of course, most of the industry has done so without the budgets or the creative talent of our marketing cousins.

What, in my humble, we should have done – and should be doing now if it’s not already happening – is re-focus on what makes us different. We have the dark art of publicity on our side.

Marketers still don’t get that. It’s quite possible they never will.

So my call to arms for the week is for this business to get back to doing what made us so powerful in the first place. Hone the media relations skills – the ability to spin an epic yarn, to create a remarkable stunt, to come up with that which is newsworthy and genuinely gets tongues wagging.

Because the more we try to compete square-on with the marketing community, the less likely we are to win. Our age-old publicity skills are what make this business unique and powerful. We forget them at our peril.

James Gordon-MacIntosh is founder and Managing Partner at Hope&Glory PR. He is also author of Ideas of the Year 2012: an incomplete compendium of the best ideas in PR during the year. You can buy a copy simply by emailing him.

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