Innovate or Die – The New Marketing Landscape

A few weeks ago, I participated in a panel discussion at the AdForumWorldwide Summit in New York City.  The session was hosted by ArunSudhaman, Partner/Editor-in-Chief at The Holmes Report. I saw it as a great opportunity to continue the conversations I’ve been having about the idea of “innovating influence” and, in particular, the growing demand for content. The topic of the discussion — which included panel participants Jennifer Cohan, president, Edelman NY; Gail Heimann, president, Weber Shandwick; and JinalShah, global digital strategy director, JWT Worldwide — was around that old chestnut, “Are PR and advertising competitive or collaborative?”

Right now, all PR agencies are adapting to the digital world by hiring creative talent from ad agencies to help communicate their client’s story in a more creative and visually impactful way. Some PR organizations are even opening subsidiaries in the paid media space.

This integration of PR and advertising is not a new concept. When Hill+Knowlton Strategies was acquired by WPP back in the 1980s, we were actually a division of JWT. JWT acquired PR firms in order to better integrate its communication offerings. The model didn’t work well at the time. PR was such a small part of marketing budgets that it was largely taken for granted.

What makes the partnership different this time around is the digital revolution. PR agencies, which use storytelling and compelling narratives to shape public opinion, are beginning to compete with advertising firms by using digital resources. Producing online and social content is as important in the media space now as big-budget advertising campaigns, and doesn’t require as costly a production department. Group SJR, recently acquired by Hill+Knowlton, uses a constant stream of editorial content, published in the digital space, to serve our clients’ interests. SJR is a newsroom, pushing out visually appealing content 24/7 to the public.

Advertising is all about selling media to a mass audience. Even as we see agencies changing to adapt to the new digital age with ads crafted to “micro markets,” PR firms are better situated to do this effectively. Our history, rooted in taking client stories and targeting them to segments of the public, means that we can take better advantage of the changing communications landscape. Moreover, our philosophy of communications lends itself to the digital platform. For us, communications is about conversation. Millions of conversations to a diversity of stakeholders who can be segmented and spoken to in a way that targets our message.

Creative is just innovation, and, in order to survive in this new digital age, we must innovate. H+K and Group SJR are a perfect example of this. A mix of old and new, through innovation (creative constant content) and influence (using trust formed through years of great client work), we are able to offer to clients a complete package.

Does this mean that advertising and PR can’t co-exist in this new world? Of course not. There will always be a need for mass advertising campaigns in combination with effective brand messaging. However, our place at the table is now equal.

Please contact us for more information.