30 January 2009


Jim Dowling

I totally agree. I cannot bear this weak, bleating from PR people about "deserving a seat at the table." You get a seat if you've got ideas that grow or protect a business. It's got nothing to do with what's on your business card.

I ranted about this in less even-headed mood a while back. You've put it much better James.


Rob Mortimer

The absolute goal is to be strategically long-sighted, but with the ability to think and act quickly.

The problem with PR as much as marketing is that these ideas are intangibles to people who make the money decisions. So what to charge is hard to justify without evidence of bottomn line figures... sadly


I agree with virtually everything you have written - especially the part about speed.

However, I'd argue that the reason that speed hasn't been trumpeted is inherently to do with the nature of strategy; that is, if it doesn't take a long time, it won't lead to 'pure' creativity, just short term tactical activity.

Now, as we both know, that a nonsense, in the same way that taking ages can muddy your thinking and lead to shoddy work.

I do disagree with this though:

"Reckon that you can buy a year's worth of brilliant ideas from an ad agency for £60,000? Or for £100,000? You can in PR, though. And that is not because you have to buy strategy and planning from the ad agency. That's because we sell our ideas for less money than sometimes they are worth."

So do we. I've worked on clients with little retainers, overserviced them, supplied good answers - and they've been used in subsequent years. Yes, PR solutions are more likely to be speedy, but I think you do ad agencies a disservice; there's an awful lot you don't see. Largely due to the work being tracked to within an inch of its life.

I thoroughly reject the notion that I can't work quickly and build the brand because I work in an ad agency. God, the day I dwell in an ivory tower is the day I bugger off, sew some armpatches into my elbows and lecture professionally.

What you guys have, when it works, is a clarity of thought and action. When it doesn't, it looks like a paper tiger - all puffery with little substance.

The latter is the same for us - only we've spunked a few million quid getting it wrong...eep.

James Gordon-MacIntosh

Rob ...

Hmmm ... Sometimes that is the case, matey. But until a piece of advertising has run, it's likely impact is conjecture. Same with a piece of PR "creativity". But clients pay a lot more for the ad creative than a brilliant PR idea that can go on to have more impact.

But this isn't about advertising vs PR, this is about the absolute value of creative ideas in PR.

Don't think that I am having a go at ad-land, just pointing out that it's a discipline that has managed to get clients to pay for quality creative ideas ...


James Gordon-MacIntosh

Thanks for that Will ... interesting as ever matey ...

I think that we're violently agreeing, just from a different POV.

The fact that PR remains an industry that isn't tracked to within an inch of its life (because to some degree it can't be - it's more subjective than that) - makes it faster and should be its strength.

I'm not taking a pop at advertising at all ... just pointing out the strength that PR has and should play up in these interesting times.

Right now, we should be trying to get more for our great ideas and be worrying less about whether we've done an exemplary piece of thinking and whether we are sitting at the top table yet ...



James - was that directed at me?

I'd say that it boils down to means of production. Clients know that making a TV ad costs a fair bit of money to make it look good. And as the IPA Effectiveness awards have been able to robustly link effectiveness and advertising, they feel more comfortable paying for it.

Paying for 'ideas' is a lot harder. Especially for something like PR, where clients can view it as a little shadowy/prone to risk - as it's based on relationships.

Look at Ingram going out of business; some of the brightest planners in the business couldn't make 'selling pure ideas' work.

Oh, I don't view it as advertising vs PR. It's a dull debate at the best of times. Paying for ideas is difficult, and i'm amazed not more agencies are versed in IP - then we'd really kick off a debate on the pure 'value' of an idea.

I mean, my agency, Lowe - came up with 'Every Little Helps', 'Reassuringly Expensive' and 'The World's Local Bank'. In pure value terms, they must be worth a few bob. I reckon when a PR agency comes up with a strategic/creative idea like those lot, they'll be able to more easily quantify their ideas.


"Right now, we should be trying to get more for our great ideas and be worrying less about whether we've done an exemplary piece of thinking and whether we are sitting at the top table yet ..."

Spot on. I'm going to start reading about IP a bit more. :)

James Gordon-MacIntosh

Will ... told you that we were agreeing. ;o)

A related point by way of illustration.

Was chatting to Alan about this (fellow Seventy Seven managing partner).

He came up with doing "Murphy's Law" for Direct Line. The chap who ran the account was up against it and needed a bright idea for a meeting.

Alan came up with working out the formula for Sod's Law. It took him about ten minutes to come up with the idea. It sold, they did it, it went EVERYWHERE media-wise (even I remember seeing it).

Cost to client? Half an hour of Alan - a hundred quid or so. Value of that idea? Lots and lots of talkability.

Did the PR agency get what it deserved for the idea cash-wise? I would say not.

Rob Mortimer

I agree mate, its a similar problem; as Will mentioned they see the money going into production and research and that gives the intangible marketing some reality.

PR feels more about trust and results. But that trust should incorporate creativity and reward for it.


Great debate. Having worked in both disciplines in my short time in agency land, I've always struggled with the idea of having a separate 'department' of creatives that clients pay for to think up ideas. I think that ultimately led to my decision to go back into PR; being part of the creative process by coming up with the idea but also being part of the project management process; i.e. actually executing your idea too. I've written about this new kinda movement of not just having good ideas, but making them happen here; http://whirledgital.com/2009/02/04/its-not-about-good-ideas-its-about-making-ideas-happen/(shameless plug, sorry) and it's something that Giles has referred to; T-shaped people; http://interactivemarketingtrends.blogspot.com/2007/02/mr-t-shaped-people.html

Ultimately it's redefining what being "creative" is and if there are people who can come up with the ideas and do them (pretty quickly as well as you say James) in our industry, surely this is the most attractive proposition for our clients given the current economic climate?

James Gordon-MacIntosh

I reckon Tim, I reckon ...

The comments to this entry are closed.

Become a Fan