What the Advertising Industry Learned from Public Relations
You may have started to notice it in the early 90’s, albeit subtly. It began with movies and even satirized in the movie Wayne’s World during a scene where lead characters Wayne and Garth refuse to (quote, unquote) be bought by their sponsors. While they are arguing their point about the demeaning of integrity by using products just because they’re paid to, they are conveniently eating a bag of Doritos, drinking a Pepsi, and even taking yellow Naprin aspirin while the rest of the TV screen fades to black and white. Product integration was born.
It wasn’t until the late nineties that mainstream advertising agencies actively began using this approach to promote their clients’ products or services. In addition to showcasing their client’s product or service during the commercial breaks, they also began incorporating their offerings right into the content of the show. Someone on Madison Avenue thought that this might be more effective, considering that’s what people turn on their TV for anyway, right? To watch a program. Or open a newspaper, right? To read an article. Brilliant! Public Relations professionals have been doing just that for over sixty years.
Product integration didn’t start getting the attention of mainstream media until recent years, which is why many probably haven’t heard of it until recently. We might have thought it was a coincidence, or maybe it just so happened that the actor of show liked to drink Coca Cola, or perhaps they really did drive that Porsche Cayenne, and they were using it as a prop for the television show. Who would have ever thought that the network TV stations were actually being paid by advertisers to place a product into a television show? But it makes sense, putting a message, product or service directly into that content that already has an interested audience.
The effectiveness of traditional advertising has deteriorated over the years. It started with companies sponsoring an entire television or radio show. Then commercial breaks were born. Now we have print ads, radio ads, outdoor adverting, mobile advertising (think NASCAR and taxi tops) all available to purchase. And now, including the internet, the last time I checked, the average consumer is targeted by more than 3,000 messages every day! When you’re exposed to this many paid messages per day, how do you know what to think, who to remember, what to retain… it gets complicated for the average consumer. How effective is it to pay for advertising space when your target prospect isn’t even paying attention?
Think about television commercials – what do you do when there is a break in your favorite show? Grab a snack, let the dog out? What about when you’re reading the paper and see advertisements – skim over it and get to the content? I’m not saying these methods DON’T work; they do when they’re targeted, but for the most part, people turn to TV or radio or a newspaper for content, not necessarily advertisements.
To an advertiser, or corporate office, or financial advisor – it is worth so much more to be mentioned, highlighted, featured, etc. when you have undivided attention of the targeted consumer, as opposed to competing with other advertisers and/or distractions, for instance, when they’re grabbing a snack or letting the dog out.
Prior to joining the financial services industry, I worked for Caesars Palace in the public relations and advertising departments, and then their corporate offices (Caesars Entertainment) in the corporate communications department.
When I worked there, Caesars hosted the Today Show who was covering a consumer tradeshow in Las Vegas. They reported their segment from Caesars Palace. Our company’s valuation of media mentions during the news was nothing by comparison to advertising. When Katie Couric said “Live from Caesars Palace…” – that 5 seconds was valuated to be worth $50,000 in advertising dollars… Why? Because millions of people tuned into the Today Show every morning to hear what Katie Couric had to say, and they paid attention. How much advertising space would our corporate office have had to buy to get users to a) see that message b) retain the viewer’s interest long enough to make an impression and c) have the credibility that went along with a third party endorsement?
That’s PR – it’s powerful. Public relations builds credibility, reduces the barrier of resistance with prospects, and creates recognition in mediums that already have an audience’s attention.
But what else can we learn for the product integration phenomenon? It will get you, your company and company’s service offering integrated into outlets that already have your target clients interest and attention.
– Location: If you want to work with affluent clients, then put your firm in their neighborhood. Integrate your company and services into a part of their daily lives. People like convenience. If you’re around the corner, that’s convenient for a prospect. Everyday, people will drive past your firm and see your company sign. That’s called branding. They will see your company name over and over and over – and will, with follow-up efforts, recognize you as a familiar company name.
– Promotion. Position your company and service offerings at events that already have an audience made up of your ideal clients. I’ve seen many tradeshow’s that target the 50+ age demographic, and traditionally they allow companies to exhibit. A friend in the industry touts the success of exhibiting at RV shows, where there are hundreds of retired attendees looking for ways to spend their money. Integrate your company into venues that already have a collection of interested, qualified prospects.
– And of course, Public Relations. If you’re being quoted in an article on “How to Catch Up for Retirement if your 50 or Older” chances are good that those who read it are fifty and older and are looking for a way to catch up for retirement.
Put yourself where the people are. Rather than spending a lot of money on mass communication efforts, spend less money on niche efforts and integrate your company into the day-to-day lives of the people you want to serve.