Digital: Where PR and Advertising Play Together

Groundswell teaches that on the web, consumers’ have control over you brand. “Your brand is what you customers say it is.” In Emotional Branding, the company listens to what their customer’s “aspire” to and uses creativity to tie it with the brand: “One single idea, especially if it involves a great brand concept- can change a company’s entire future.”

Which approach is the “best”: Creative Campaigns or Crowdsourced branding?

Big question huh? Within it lies the difference between the advertising campaigns and PR. Do you use the subtle PR approach and reach out to people who already have your audiences’ attention, or do you come up with creative new ways to grab your audiences’ attention?

PR tactics include blogger outreach, KOL (key opinion leader) identification, messaging, SEO, press releases, product placement, tradeshows, celebrity endorsements, experiential events, meme tracking and social media.

Advertising includes billboards, magazine ads, character creation, tv commercials, web commercials, “viral videos”, regular videos, web banner ads, flashy web ads, Times Square, blimps, sky writing, brochures, even bumper stickers.

In digital, the best campaigns use a combination of PR and advertising tactics. They build off strong, distinct brands, create attention grabbing advertising and amplify their message through PR. The most important thing any campaign does though, is associate the product with the fulfillment of a desire. These are the nine desires I’ve seen work in successful digital campaigns:

1. Materialism – Getting stuff for free.
Example: Heinz Ketchup Facebook page “likes” for coupons.

In the Heinz example there was a very old, basic advertising trick of offering a material reward to grab customers attention. The PR part was the Facebook page itself, a community of “fans” who had opened themselves up to future messaging from the brand. (While getting this photo I found out my little sister even “likes” Heinz Ketchup. I need to talk to that girl more.)

2. Adventure – Vicarious experiences like in reality TV show.
Example: Ford Fiesta Contest where participants documented road trip adventures.

In the Ford Fiesta example we had a vehicle with a catchy name, branded neon green in order attract attention. Ford put serious advertising out to get consumers aware of the movement, but once it was going it they were able to crowdsource videos, engage consumers by having them choose their teams and use events already taking place, like music concerts. Sending their teams to these events was of course cheaper than sponsoring them. (I would argue those big events which PR people love to throw in Times Square are more akin to advertising.)

3. Sexual fulfillment – Making you more attractive or associating a brand with sexual satisfaction.
Example: Kylie Minogue Riding a Bull in Agent Provocateur Panties

The key to this Agent Provocateur is a lingerie brand, so it’s already selling sex–or attraction. The video is entertaining for both men to watch a really hot celebrity in act overtly sexual. For women, it features a woman breaking out of a uniform and gets on top of a symbolic wild animal, letting her hair down. The ad instantly reminded me of the Sex and the City episode where, Miranda, the uptight lawyer becomes sexually liberated by riding a bull and rips her top open to reveal a red lace bra. Not only did this video go viral, but AP has used videos like this to sell its lingerie on its site where you can click on items in the movie and go instantly to purchase. Brilliant.

4. Affirmation – Empowering you or making you feel better about yourself.
Example: Pepsi Refresh Project sponsored goodwill campaigns submitted by consumers.

The Pepsi is the ultimate advertiser, with a clearly defined logo, the young, rebellious image they pulled out against Coke in the nineties, and the color coding which is instantly recognizable. The “Refresh” association was “refresh the world” with projects that help your community. Pepsi began advertising their campaign at SXSW, and pushing it across Twitter and Facebook. The Project blew up when Kevin Bacon and Demi Moore joined to gain “votes” from consumers for their grant submissions. Pepsi not only has great PR cache but their logo is everywhere.

5. Entertainment – “Fun”, define that for yourself. (I don’t like games.)
Example: Tron Livecycle Game by Coke Zero.

Coke decided to associate itself with the Disney Tron movie to push its Zero calorie version. The game is a branded app on your iPhone. Where does this game fit in? Is it advertising because its branded? Is it PR because its associating with an audience, namely the Tron lovers? Digital is skewing PR and advertising…if it works, who cares?

6. Sustenance – Food.
Example: Betty Crocker Apps

With food you have to pick the specific need it fills: Thirst, instant hunger (Snickers), health, a treat, etc. Betty Crocker gets convenience. In the fifties the brand hit home with housewives introducing instant cake mixes. They originally just added water. Guess what, that isn’t baking. They had to alter the recipe so housewives would have to add eggs, milk, or oil so they still felt like they were “baking”. Today on-the-go moms have a Betty Crocker app which makes them feel important and empowered, while giving them “quick, healthy, kid friendly” recipes featuring Betty Crocker ingredients. It’s filled with beautiful, eye-catching food pictures. Is it PR or is it advertising? Who cares, it works!

7. Fame – This sums up respect, admiration, status.
Example: Shakira, Waka Waka for the Fifa World Cup

Fifa created a branded video starring a celebrity singing an original song: A commercial. If there was ever a “guaranteed viral video” its creating a music video with a really great song. Youtube is filled with an apt audience of aspiring musicians, dancers and singers who quickly take every great song and create their own versions. The lyrics were perfect, even though it was “this time for Africa”, they said “this is your time”, exactly what the Me-generation loves to hear. Waka Waka not only went viral, but inspired a “Zumba” dance craze in web videos.

8. Tools – Stuff that makes life easier, which could be literally tools or information.
Example: Google Chrome’s browser which makes web browsing uuber fast.

Google wants what everyone on the web wants: Total control of our desktops. They identified the most annoying thing for us about our browsers, load time, and created a solution to that. Better, they created wacky, totally hipster videos that looked like they were original viral videos, but were staged and branded. Most likely this was inspired by a Rube Goldberg viral music video from earlier last year. Rube Goldberg cartoons are convoluted chain reactions by a kooky inventor to do something simple like make toast. This type of video is a”meme in the Youtube world showing how clever the person making the video is.

9. Cuteness – Our affinity for our young transfers over to other small things with big eyes.
Example: Purina Animal All Stars are videos uploaded by users of their “amazing” pets.

Purina hit on pet owners pride in their animals. For many pet owners their pets become surget children. They branded their consumers “All Stars” and created a series of commercials of pets being amazing. The campaign was about “helping your pets be the best by feeding them the best”. The site then crowdsourced videos from pet owners. I hate cats, and I admit the site is extremely addicting.

Yes I know you have ten fingers and would like a “tenth”, but who’s a perfect ten anyway? Arguably some of these could be combined, and drilled down to our basic needs to: A) Attract mates, B) Impress allies, C) Get food, D) Obtain Shelter/Clothes, E) Care for Babies.

The outliers, the ones where Marc Gobe’s ideas really stand out are Affirmation and Entertainment. What is entertainment? It’s something that makes us happy, but in the case of the Blair Witch project or bungee jumping, it could make us scared too. “Fun” is the trickiest of all desires, and has had the most success in viral campaigns. Fun campaigns make us laugh, get us outside, involve us in groups.

Until next time. I’m going to have to do some more research on this “fun” thing.


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