I’ve grown up with Advertising.  I was born the same year as Ronald McDonald.  In the hot Australian summers of the seventies I would sit and watch our black and white TV with the curtains drawn,  rote learning all the lines in ads for Selvitex Suits, George’s Discounts, Tip Top Bread and more.  

I had a short-lived stand-up career at University and reciting these ads was part of my act.  Here are some of them:

In those days, of course, ads were a fixture.  On TV at least there was little choice.  There were no VCRs so the diet that the two channels served in Canberra (two channels!) was all that you got.

If I went on Mastermind, my specialist subjects would be The Brady Bunch, My Favourite Martian, Green Acres and F Troop.

These days I skip ads in the main.  I do watch Mad Men, of course, and I love the unfolding story of the excesses of the ad world in the 1970s.  Beyond that I mostly watch TV on demand and fast forward through the breaks.

I’m still influenced in the brand choices that I make but in different ways.  I listen in to conversations on Twitter, I ask the opinions of real world and digital friends, I check real reviews from companies like Reevoo and BazaarVoice and read papers and magazines.  I’m more interested in what people think about brands than I am about what brands say in their advertising.

To buy a one page ad in a leading national newspaper would cost you around £35,000.  On top of that there’s the cost for artwork, creative, strategy, analysis (in no particular order).  That’s one ad as part of a wider programme if you’re a big brand.  If you’re a smaller business it’s a huge cost – and a hope for the best.

You know I’m going to start making the case for PR now, don’t you?

Imagine for a moment that you were able to lose the costs of the ads but retain the impact.  In a way, that’s what I firmly believe that PR can achieve.  Our clients pay us monthly retainers or project-related fees based on our time.  Everything else just happens.  Page leads appear, subliminally making the case for your brand – and more importantly, catalyzing conversations on Twitter and Facebook, building brand awareness, engagement and loyalty.

Sometimes to make our stories fly we have to pay for other things – £15 perhaps to buy a domain name or an Omnibus question to test a hypothesis – but for the most part it is simply about applying our creativity in a way that is going to gently force the hand of an influencer.

For many of our clients the cost of a one-off one page ad in a mid-market paper would equate to a six-month retained programme from us. Our work has led to sales spikes, sell-outs, acquisitions, awards, amazing partnerships, global fame and more.

So I guess this is the equation:

One ad in a national – or six months effort from an award-winning PR agency?

All bias aside, I know which one I’d choose.


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