Pulse of the Profession

Friday Five: Advertising Faces Challenges in a Digital and Social Age

The advertising industry has been and continues to be an industry in the midst of radical transformation. Traditional mass media advertising is augmented by nontraditional approaches, such as product placement, viral marketing, direct marketing and virtual community marketing on the Web. Given these dynamic changes and the increased reliance on social and digital media, practitioners must confront the challenges of the new advertising world daily to remain relevant to their consumers.

In this week’s PRSA “Friday Five” post — an analysis of the week’s biggest public relations and business news and commentary — we explore the evolving role of advertising as it pertains to the public relations and marketing industries. We will look at examples of how advertising is facing more regulations set by FCC, Facebook’s struggle to be seen as a strong social advertising platform, and how the advertising model is changing as a result of companies seeing the value behind getting to know their customer demographic better.

Political Advertising Disclosure Greatly Enhanced By New FCC Rule (The Huffington Post)

On Friday, April 27, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled to require television broadcasters to put online their file of political advertising buys for the first time. The ruling, which was supported by the two Democratic commissioners and opposed by the Republican commissioner, requires the major broadcasters — CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC — operating in the top 50 media markets to begin placing their file of political advertising buys online six months after the ruling is published. This means that at least some details of the record advertising spending expected for the 2012 election would be publicly disclosed online, making this information widely accessible for the first time. The move amounts to a tectonic plate shift in the landscape as the 2012 election shapes up to be the most expensive in modern history.

It’s Time for Advertising to Take a Lesson (Gasp!) From Public Relations (Ad Age)

In the same way that the mass-market culture of the 1950s created the need for brands, today’s social-technical culture is forcing brands to employ a new model for interacting with the public — one based not in the slow-drip Chinese water torture of traditional advertising, but in the kind of focused dialogue in which public relations specializes. Ad Age’s Timothy Kane writes, “It’s clear that the future of advertising is public relations. And it’s time for agencies to get past their preconceptions, and learn how the disciplines of PR can improve their creative thinking.” For example, Nike’s marketing communications budget is at an all-time high, but its advertising spend is at an all-time low (less than 13 percent of the total). Pepsi, now in the second year of its Refresh Project, promotes and provides grants for hundreds of grassroots community projects, which is funded by millions of redirected advertising dollars.

Kenneth Cole Pulls Ad (The Wall Street Journal)

A Kenneth Cole billboard perched above the West Side Highway looked like an ordinary ad for a red blazer. The accompanying text — “Shouldn’t everyone be well red?” — and a less-than-subtle tagline underneath, “Teachers’ rights vs. students’ rights” — ultimately led the company to remove the billboard after it drew the ire of labor leaders and public-education activists, such as Diane Ravitch, who interpreted it as an insulting jibe at teacher rights. The ad was Mr. Cole’s latest foray into socially conscious advertising, part of a new campaign called “Where do you stand?”

Facebook and Advertising: Between a Rock and a Hard Place (GigaOM)

With a public offering reportedly set for May 18, Facebook is preparing for its IPO “road show” next week.  Convincing analysts and investors that it is worth $100 billion may be more challenging than the company expected. The social network must prove how dramatically social networks are altering the fundamentals of business and show their potential as a platform for social advertising. Unfortunately, some advertisers seem to be lukewarm, at best, on the value of a Facebook ad according to The Wall Street Journal, while others complain they can’t get the giant social network to do the kinds of things they want to do to boost their effectiveness. Facebook has to find a way to sell advertisers on the value of what it offers as opposed to simple banner ads, and at the same time,  do this without adding all kinds of ad-related features that make the site even less friendly to users.

What if We Tossed Out the Advertising Model? (Forbes)

Advertising and much of marketing is still based on sending crafted messages to a broad demographic or psychographic group at a time. What if these advertising efforts were avowed to be 97 percent ineffective or even less than that? As long as the revenue it generates is more than it costs, it seems that both industries are satisfied and consumers are at least tolerant. Forbes contributor Rawn Shah interviewed author and thought-leader David ‘Doc’ Searls author of “The Intention Economy” at SXSW. The two discussed a new way to achieve traditional advertising goals, by ways of customer relationship management and vendor relationship management (VRM) models. VRM focuses on the tooling that makes it possible for your browser or software to auto-fill the forms that we so often have to fill out over and over again, or share other particulars about yourself, given your permission. This tool allows brands and other companies to better market their product or services to customers by getting a better understanding of who their customer demographic is, what they are searching for, and with who they are engaging. As a result companies are able to reach their customer base with meaningful content and not just a billboard filled with text and witty messaging.

Nicole Castro is the public relations associate at the Public Relations Society of America.

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