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PR will save you from stupid marketing

Many self-inflicted publicity wounds are the fault of your marketing department.

We’ve seen some notable examples within a past few weeks. Pepsi was mocked for an absurd “attitude” advert about people dancing and protesting for peace and diversity while drinking the fizzy stuff.

Cadbury was pilloried for removing the word “Easter” from a marketing campaign. Tesco was criticised for claiming that cheap alcohol meant “Good Friday just got better.”

Marketers can be remarkably ignorant. Binding alcohol to Good Friday is thoughtless and unnecessary. Dumping Easter, a millennia-long tradition linked to rebirth, is historically and religiously unaware. Tying commerce to social protest is shallow.

PR people are forever mopping up after the stupidity of marketers. We’ve helped clients when their marketers created a story for Easter because ‘it didn’t have one’, hired streakers to promote a new product, and forgot to get advice whether a new product was actually legal.

Marketers are short-attention-span cultural magpies, attracted by very recent shiny things. In contrast, societies are complex arrangements of long lived and slowly morphing ideas. Many of these ideas, while shibboleths to the urbane elite manning marketing departments, are central to the identity of citizens and consumers.

Good PR understands these complexities. Good PR doesn’t shy from controversy. But it never courts it without knowing exactly how and why.

Just in case you think New Zealand couldn’t be as stupid, my top of mind exhibit number one is Telecom’s ridiculous “abstain for the game” adverts.

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