15 July 2007

Dreaming of Adland…

I don’t know about you, but often when I get hold of a client brief, the first creative ideas that pop into my head take the form of advertisements. It happened to me again last week, and I was musing on why that might be.

I think it’s because - in the world of advertising - you control the message entirely (as long as you’re not making any entirely outlandish claims); there’s no editorial filter. The only filters, in fact, are the agency’s account lead and the client. And judging by the number of atrocious ads around, it isn’t much of one. It’s also why people don’t believe advertisements.

But when you’re thinking in advertisement form, you can basically present the client’s message as blatantly as you like…which is what often happens when you start thinking about a client’s PR brief. Then, of course, you need to put what the client would like to say in the context of something that’s believable, so that it’s got half a chance of finding its way through the editorial filter.

It’s because of this that, while many people would point to the advertising industry as being the more creative, it’s actually PR where you need to apply your creative energies more to what the client wants to say.

I’ll admit it though. Before I landed my first job, I’d have probably taken a job in advertising over PR and I reckon many of my peers would have too (given that many of us simply fell into PR as a career). I think that’s changed significantly in the last decade or so, with more entrants into the industry making a conscious choice to pursue a PR career (though with many of these seeming to leave in a worryingly short space of time).

Advertising still has something of a glamorous image though, doesn’t it? The size of the budgets helps (though much of the tens of million pounds in advertising contracts you hear about is, of course, spent on simply buying media). But there’s still the attractiveness of pretty much being able to do what you like, as long as you can sell it to the client.

One recent(ish) TV ad that I liked was the Sony Bravia one…you know, the one where the tower block spurted loads of colourful paint everywhere. Lovely…but quite what it told me about Sony I’m not so sure, other than it makes colour tellies and impressive ads. I guess it’s just a brand thing.

If you were doing PR for the Sony Bravia, however, you’d have to do something that would appeal to the media. You’d probably do some research. Eight out of 10 northern blokes think that the Sony Bravia’s colours are better than the real life ones they see every day in their dreary, rain-soaked home towns…70% of women in Wales are more likely to have sex on a first date with a bloke with a Sony Bravia in his front room…that sort of thing. You wouldn’t simply pour a load of Dulux off a condemned building and expect someone to write about it. In positive terms, at least.

It’s a fine line between a great ad and a rubbish one though, isn’t it? While the Sony ad is a creative concept that really appeals to me, I can’t stand that Vodafone ad on the telly at the moment with all the bits of watches raining down on people’s heads. For a start it looks painful…for a finish I hate the idea that having email on the go is positioned as being as much fun as kicking your way through autumn leaves or freshly fallen snow.

And I reckon that the Vodafone PR people are gutted, as they have probably recently spent thousands on the same “mobile email saves you bags of time” survey that Blackberry launched the other week.

But imagine if these advertisements happened in real life? Sharp little pieces of metal falling randomly from the sky…all because of Vodafone? It’d be a PR disaster. Just as well they work in Adland, rather than the real world.

But I'd still rather buy a Sony than switch to Vodafone...


Ben Schmark said...

PR more creative? Ha!

Granted, you all work your tits off. Even the men! And you all deserve every last retainer (and dubious cost item) you screw out of your anal retentive clients.

But come on, creative?

The only times I've been asked to create anything for a technology company, the brief has been something like: "we want something totally original, as long as it's like the current Microsoft ads"

The campaign is the easy bit, surely. You just copy whatever the market leaders are saying. And then allow the client to insert all their clumsy buzzwords and comfort- blanket marketing slogans into your finely crafted work.

Which must be a bit galling. But that simpleton trampling over your finest work with his stupid hobnail boots is paying for your swimming pool, and the privately educated kids who will swim in it.

That's what I heard anyway.

Well, yes, alright then, you've forgotten more about PR than I'll ever know.

But have I got a point?

....the world's leading.... said...

Probably...but it's far too early.

Spud said...

The difference between the two ads is a fairly straightforward one... Sony's ad is for a telly, but it doesn't go anywhere near the features and benefits of the telly (except of course to say it does great colour). Vodafone's ad on the other hand goes straight for the "what it does" angle - and in this case what it does isn't that exciting.

Looks like Sony's ad agency have taken a leaf out of Guinness' and decided that horses dancing out of huge waves is in no way relevant to a pint of the black stuff - but that it doesn't have to be.

That's why advertising looks like so much fun when you're in PR...

Anonymous said...

I started off in Advertising, before eventually ending up in PR, where I've been for quite a few years. In both industries I've worked with some of the largest players.

From what I can tell, advertising is run by people who know a LOT about numbers - and can analyse very carefully what impact their ads have on their audience. However, adverts are created by 'creative' types who mainly seem to want to win awards. It's usually a power struggle between the two.

A company I know very well recently did an ad about mobile phones that involved a bloke pushing a house down a road. No one internally quite knew what this was meant to signify. When a 'making of' video was released internally, the creatives who thought up this clever idea (which involved a trip to New Zealand to film it of course), mainly seemed to say that they had come up with a great way of having a bloke push a house down a road, and then had to find a client dumb enough to give them the money to do it.

....the world's leading.... said...

Yeah, I suspect there's more than a dash of the emperor's clothes about those ad agency pitches...we're the creatives, you're the numpties...and nobody's got the bollocks to say, "umm, no, that's an utterly shite idea and I'm not about to finance a week's holiday for you idiots to film it. Now get yourself a decent pair of glasses, have yourself a shave and fuck off out of my sight."

Sounds like the job for me...

Spud said...

The ad with the moving house looks exactly like it was one of those "off the shelf" ads, I get the strong impression that the agency that did the recent Lloyds "for the journey" stuff with the train, had been turned down by Eurostar or Virgin Rail when Lloyds cam by their front door.

Martin said...

Shame that you follow up the assertion that PRs often need to be more creative than the advertising team (true, I think), with two ideas for a Sony campaign that involve surveys.

....the world's leading.... said...

Yes Martin...they weren't really 'proper' ideas; they were a little tongue-in-cheek.

Unlike us, I know.

A proper idea, of course, would be to showcase the importance of colours such as those found in the Sony Bravia telly in alleviating global poverty...where people can dream of owning a Sony Bravia, they still have a glimmer (multi-coloured) of hope left.

And if it'd been me, I'd have recommended that all the balls used in the previous Sony Bravia ad (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSBn3-A2V8o) were subsequently used to construct a huge ballpit for disadvantaged kids.

Bet that didn't happen either.

....the world's leading.... said...

Actually, in reality, I'd have done what these chaps did and nick the idea for someone else. Genius though:


Anonymous said...

I've often felt that PR creativity often involves how you do something as much as what you do.

We may have a wonderfully creative idea but let's face it more than half of them tank.

Anonymous said...

I 'fell' into PR, I've progressed quickly and enjoy loads of responsibility - but as soon as there is an opening in an ad agency (and I've been informed of one), I'll be chucking myself out of PR and straight into ad land. No regrets. I'd leave right now if I didn't have a mortgage, or a need to eat.