In a recent PR Week piece, Martin Sorrell said: "PR companies are doing more work around social media and digital, and hiring more creative people, but those who tell you they are taking on the advertising agencies on their own are living in la la land. Yes, as part of an integrated pitch, they might well be involved, but not on their own."
Yup. That's right. Any of you PR firms out there who think you can broaden services to include ad agency-like offerings are living in la la land.
W CEO Warren Johnson took issue with Sorrell's comment and penned a rebuttal, also in PR Week, defending the capabilities of PR agencies.
He first takes aim at the bread and butter of ad agencies, paid media, writing: "The revolution that began with the fast-forward button on our cable TV boxes and the advent of Facebook has utterly transformed consumer behavior and media habits -- effectively ending the supremacy of the 30-second spot and chewing up the banner ad for good. Paid advertising is, if not entirely dead and buried, then being sized up by the Grim Reaper."
He then goes for the throat, adding, "Yes -- in the real world (as opposed to the one Sir Martin inhabits), people are comprehensively tuning out traditional advertising because they’re sick and tired of being sold to in the same old ways. And that’s not just a PR man shooting from the hip, by the way -- it’s an analysis that’s supported by actual facts. "
He makes note of the fact ad blockers are now more than an afterthought and makes the argument that earned media (the fancy name for what PR agencies provide) is the wave of the future.
Alluding to the seismic shift from paid media to earned and owned Johnson lobbed his final barb, writing: "Sir Martin speaks for an industry that has never been short of bravado, but may be rapidly running out of answers. Businesses that genuinely want to connect with consumers are waking up to a new reality. And where are they turning? To PR agencies, of course."