Why advertising should no longer lead integrated campaigns

PRmoment.com beleives that it is common sense that an integrated campaign should draw on expertise from all the disciplines involved right from the start.

Yet too often, one agency takes the lead and others follow. As Craig Harries, senior planner at advertising agency Farm, says: “The notion that a brand agency (usually the ad agency) develops an advertising idea which is then given to the media, digital, direct/CRM and last, but not least, PR agencies to execute in their channels is outdated, arrogant and a shameful waste of time and resources.”

Harries blames the clients which are structured by channel, as this means that channel heads operate in silos with their own agencies that report to them rather than the team. He explains how this then creates a campaign whose parts fail to contribute to the whole: “The advertising agency as the brand guardians sit at the top of the food chain and dictate campaigns. As agencies pass the baton from one to another and make judgements in terms of what they think is relevant, they run the risk of losing powerful insights and ideas.”

The reason that PR agencies are often the last to be briefed is because, Harries says, their role is viewed as only “amplifying the idea, getting extra mileage at low cost.” Harries believes there are two main reasons to involve PR at the start of integrated campaigns. First, having the PR team involved from the beginning will ensure that creating an impact is built into the idea and will have a major influence upon it. Second, because of social media, consumers are able to create communities, which can make or break brands in days. Harries says, “This pace of change makes being constantly in touch with your audiences and having the ability to listen and rapidly respond makes PR an essential and integral part of the marketing arsenal."

There is no question of the impact of social media, which suggests that PR needs to be a key component of today’s integrated campaigns. That is, if you believe that PR is the discipline best placed to own social media, as does Ross Furlong founder of digital PR agency Furlong PR. Furlong claims that social media is often the place to start when working on multi-discipline campaigns: “I'm thinking of one digital agency who brings us in to add a social media/online PR dimension for one of their clients. We get involved at the planning stage and have found that the social media creative idea becomes key to the perceived success of the overall campaign from that point on. One thing a lot of people don't yet understand is that a large part of the success of a social media campaign rests on traditional PR activities; such as getting bloggers and online media writing about what you're doing.”

Even if PR is not involved at the start of the campaign, its power can still be harnessed if it is brought in quickly enough. Sam Howard, director of influence at global digital marketing firm Metia, has found that the explosion in media channels means that there is greater demand for integrated campaigns than ever before, and many clients now appreciate the importance of PR‘s role: “Even if PR is not the first channel in a go-to-market strategy, the PR team are usually involved in defining and stress testing the messaging and setting that in to an industry context. From there the campaign might encompass social, digital, events, analysts relations, relationship marketing and lead generation, to bring in the desired results.“

Case study

To illustrate how PR should be at the heart, and start, of campaigns, Gay Collins, executive chairman at PR firm MHP Communications, part of the integrated agency Engine, provides this example: “One of my longest-standing clients appointed us 10 months before its launch into Europe 11 years ago. That meant that we could carefully plan the right positioning with its branding and design advisers, debate and challenge the brand values we came up with, indoctrinate those with all staff and in addition to all that commission some in-depth industry research. This integrated plan ensured that the whole launch lined up with brand messages and added to the impact without any additional cost."

Collins adds that although PR works best in integrated campaigns if it is included in the planning stage, it is still better to bring it in at a last-minute stage than to forget it altogether!

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