We’re called “hidden” persuaders for a reason … and adland needs to embrace that if they’re going to dine at the PR table
10th June 2013

We’re called “hidden” persuaders for a reason … and adland needs to embrace that if they’re going to dine at the PR table

When I saw this piece of work (by Ogilvy Paris for IBM), I rather fell in love with it.

A neat, simple piece of thinking, brilliantly conceived: useful advertising that doubles as street furniture. And an idea that gets the brand campaign message across really rather beautifully.

But then I got interested in who exactly the message might be reaching. Because, with three executions, there aren’t a lot of eyeballs heading towards these ads, let’s face it.

Then this quote (from the Creative Review blog) caught my eye as I wandered the web trying to work out just how shared this piece of work had become …

“This blurring of the lines between what’s ‘real’ and what is a ‘stunt’ is increasingly prevalent and interesting. More and more we are seeing ideas from agencies which seem to have been made principally in order to generate a secondary life online. Does it matter if your poster or live stunt was only seen in reality by a handful of people when it goes on to be viewed hundreds of thousands or even millions of times as a Vimeo or YouTube film?”

Because that really is the nub of it: tactical creative designed to be editorialised rather than seen in situ.

Welcome to the world of public relations, folks …

But – and yes, there is another but – I was (and remain) intrigued about WHO exactly is seeing these ads through the digital second life that has been created by and for them.

Altogether less interested in how many of them might be viewing it.

A swift Google tells us that the world’s advertising and design sites are agog. Praising the cleverness and the lateral thinking involved, lauding the cunning so-and-sos who came up with the concept and delivered it so beautifully.

Now of course, it could be that IBM were interested solely in reaching the world’s creative types and that the work has been designed to reach a global audience of black-T-Shirt-and-black-jacket-with-a-nice-pair-of-black-jeans-wearing folk in agency land.

But I doubt it.

Ogilvy Paris themselves are responsible for the video above – not IBM. That rather suggests that the agency was more interested in the fame the campaign creates for itself than it does for the client.

So my momentary hope – that an ad agency was truly embracing the notion of selling a client what is, at heart, a PR stunt – was rudely ripped away from me.

In actual fact, this was an agency selling a client a great idea that would enhance their own fame through social media, rather than get the message across to an audience across the globe.

And if advertising folks want to have a bash at PR, they’re welcome to do so: the more people extolling the virtues of our discipline to marketing directors the better.

But if they want to do so, they need to embrace the principles and practice of the business in their entirety, rather than sell ideas that will simply line their own awards shelves.

Because the PR business will never be served as long as adland-conceived and delivered stunts do little more than line the egos of the creatives behind them.

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