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The Blurred Lines Between Advertising And PR: Where Does One End And The Other Begin?

Posted on 17 September 2010 by Cheryl Joy

You’re walking down the road to the most popular hang out in town. A giant hoarding glares at you from above, a position that you can’t miss even if you want to. It asks you to buy the latest cell phone and in a catchy peppy four lines tells you all about it and how owning it would make you the most popular person on the planet! Hmmmm…there’s something to chew on for a while. But then you still keep walking on, in a hurry to get to your friends. Yes you’re finally there, but wait, right at the entrance is an RJ from the most popular radio station in town asking you a couple of silly questions in order to win a grand prize- what is it, you ask? Well it’s the very same cell phone you saw smiling back at you while you were on your way here!

Now replace the cell phone with a television or a chocolate or a shampoo… and the one thing that will strike you is that, advertisements are getting larger than life. They are coming out of our television screens and almost becoming real entities, ones that talk to you.

Welcome to the age of Integrated Marketing Communication. Here marketing doesn’t end with a story board that spells out a brilliant print ad. Advertising doesn’t end with a brilliant film. It goes on to public relations, which goes back to marketing and so on. We live in such a consumer’s market that today just marketing is not good enough, just advertising is not comprehensible and just PR is a disaster. We have reached a time and age where the three are wedded together so intensely that the lines between them have blurred and are almost invisible.

Advertising has always been the big brother to PR. From the time when people realized the magic in the third party’s word, PR has been considered to be a smaller cousin to advertising. But not anymore, today the two go hand in hand. There is no conceivable product that one can think of that hasn’t realized the magic of putting these two forces together. More importantly everyone realizes the power in PR.

Almost all the major advertising firms today have taken up the challenge of moving into PR work as well. This because they realize that none of their clients would be interested in someone who just relies on advertising. It just doesn’t work that way anymore. The modern consumer is cognizant of all that is going on around him. He switches on the TV and there are ten ads trying to convince him to buy one product. He drives to work and there are hundreds of bill boards trying to capture his attention. So much so when he opens his inbox, there are a couple of mailers waiting for him there as well. What does he buy and why?

This is the question that companies are asking themselves today because no one knows anymore, what drives the consumer to buy one product over the other. The lines of distinction between products have become so thin and the substitutability has become so intense that telling one from the other is almost impossible. Enter the role of PR. It acts as that force, that extra push that makes a consumer choose one product over the other. Because somewhere deep down, the consumer is still looking for that reassurance from a third party- a neutral party that doesn’t have any direct linkage to the product in anyway. That is what PR does- at least in the eyes of the consumer.

This being the precise reason why PR is joining advertising in being one of the most sought out careers of our times. Today advertising cannot work in isolation, neither can PR. Together; these form the core of Integrated Marketing Communication which is the panacea to most marketing problems.

Marketing Communication is no more a one step problem with a one step solution. It does not call for a simple strategy of putting an ad together for the public to see. It is a lot more- it involves strategy, in depth analysis and a step by step plan of how to make an impression in the mind of the consumer. It is constantly trying to find out the magic answer to the question- what will make someone buy my product over my competitors?

The answer for these questions are far from resolved completely, but in a way there is some agreement on the fact that the merger of advertising and PR is the way to go. Till now that seems like the solution to the problem, what lies ahead is a question that opens up another array of possibilities. Well the answers to those…we’ll answer them when we get there! As for now Advertising and PR have become inseparable and integral to each other and there’s no turning back.

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