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Adidas France’s latest campaign opens up PR debate

My favourite PR stunt this week was from Adidas France.

For those not familiar with the recent French campaign for the sportswear giant, here’s the handy case study film:

And this lovely piece of work should make us all recognise is how our worlds are changing. It is too grand a claim to say that all marketing will be like this – a radical combination of experience, digital and social activation, the creation of ambassadorship mashed up with an event that gets people talking.

There will always be a place for product placement, for features, for news generation, for day-to-day social media engagement and for all of those channel and medium-based skills.

But increasingly the need is for all of us in consumer brand PR to understand the centrality of the creative idea and the idea that a great creative idea has the power to cut across disciplines and channels if it is well-executed.

In a week that saw furore erupt in the South of France not just because yet another Cannes winner came from ad-land. Compounding the debate was the fact that the chair of judges added insult to injury by having the temerity to suggest that the PR industry lacked the big idea-thinking to grab the highest honours.

In my humble opinion, both sides of the argument are right.

On the one hand, most of the campaigns to emerge from even the best PR agencies are editorial media-first: designed to get ink for a day and to gently fade from consciousness. Or to create momentary buzz on social networks before they are consigned to the list of “formerly trending topics”.

On the other, the PR industry is about far more than creative campaigning. There are the slickly-operated media teams that keep journalists happy and pages of editorial filled. And of course there are the reputations that we manage every day of our lives. Perhaps this work is little understood, maybe when committed to paper the stories of these campaigns don’t blow their readers away when perusing awards entries. The value to our clients of these laudable tasks is unarguable.

However, and this is the crux, regardless of whether you want to believe one side or the other (and as I say, both arguments have their merits), there is an underlying truth we should not shy away from.

Channel neutrality, integration of earned, editorial, social, owned, shared and bought media, a demand for bigger creative ideas that occupy an audience’s attention for longer and resonates more strongly.

These are all things that we in the PR world should be aiming to master and deliver against if we want to continue our fight for representation not at the board room table, but at the top table with our marketing agency cousins and with the ear of marketing and brand directors.

Ignoring the trend for big brands to buy big brand ideas (from whichever agency they may originate in) and to worry about the channels an audience will experience them in later is something that the PR industry does at its peril.

James Gordon-MacIntosh is a managing partner at Hope&Glory PR and from time-to-time pens Spinning Around, a blog that he describes as “thinking out loud”

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