Deathmatch: 4As v the PR Council

By Matt Van Hoven Comment


The other day the American Association of Advertising Agencies changed it’s name to the 4As because “‘American’ was too limited (advertisers do business internationally), as was ‘Advertising Agencies’.” My broheim over at PRNewser, Joe Ciarallo, caught a particularly interesting quote from Matt Shaw, SVP, director of communications for the PR Council. Said Shaw:

“Obviously today’s Times story caught our eye. The 4As deserves credit for acknowledging the massive changes taking place in its business; however, as it relates to doing strategic public relations, simply re-branding doesn’t mean an ad agency can do PR like Council members, and public relations firms in general.”

“I wrote a piece in the Daily Dog two years ago on this subject, and my lead was, ‘It turns out that when advertising grows up it wants to be public relations.’ Perhaps this is another step toward fulfilling that prophecy.”

Where to begin…How about with a rebuttal from 4A’s President/CEO Nancy Hill.

“While the 4A’s, certainly, respects the work of the PR Council, rather than wallow in the old-moded fantasy that a turf war still exists between various marketing communications disciplines, we prefer to live in the reality of today’s marketplace that values and validates all disciplines. We don’t judge one over another. We prefer to be inclusive, rather than divisive.”

In the comments section of the PRNewser piece, Steve Winston of brand-new PR firm Winston Communications wrote:

“Ad agencies are finally realizing what PR can give that they can’t &#151 third-party credibility.

When a company gets written about in print or online, or gets positive braodcast [sic] coverage, that’s more effective than ten technolgically-wizardous Super Bowll [sic sic sic] ads.”

We love a good quarrel as much as the next blogger, but wow. There’s some hard feelings in there. Why so serious, PR industry, can’t we all just agree to disagree?

I could opine all day about how ineffective I think some/most PR folks are, and the same can probably be said for some/most ad work. The fact is in the communications game, persuasion is only as effective as the message but it really comes down to the recipient being, well, receptive. As Chuck Klosterman says, you’re either a Lakers fan or a Celtics fan, Beatles or Stones.

One thought &#151 here at AgencySpy we get pitches all the time and usually they suck. Sorry PR folk, that’s just how I feel about it. But the thing is that without advertising, PR would have a tough time existing. Advertising pays for a lot of things like, for example, a writer’s salary. The content of said publication has to be desirable and if I used most of the pitches I get as the stories you read here daily, well you wouldn’t read anymore. And then advertisers wouldn’t pay to be on this site and then the PR folk would have to send their shitty pitches to some other guy.

Yeah, PR is more than just pitching, but the stories sent my way usually lack the kind of credibility (sore subject, I know) people want. That’s why pitch pieces are called fluff &#151 they’re filled with air rather than rock solid goodness. I’m equally skeptical of the kind of advertising that uses absolutes, so this isn’t to say the ad industry isn’t guilty of the same. I just wanted to point out that Shaw’s argument (“Ad agencies are finally realizing what PR can give that they can’t &#151 third-party credibility.”) is weak. But then again he’s the PR director for the PR Council, so I suppose that kind of answer is to be expected.

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