Advertising VS. PR
Some people think that “publicity” and “advertising” are more or less the same thing. These people would be, what I like to call, WRONG.
Nike launching a successful line of golf clubs because of the swoosh on Tiger Woods’ hat is a product of advertising; Tiger becoming one of the world’s most polarizing athletes after sharing a bed with half of Las Vegas is a product of publicity (and the V.I.P. room at Tao). The trailers you saw for The Dark Knight Rises are examples of advertising; The tragic events that took place at a screening in Colorado generated publicity. Terrible publicity. But publicity nonetheless.
There’s a vast difference between creating a buzz and managing one. We’re not saying that organic buzz isn’t equally as impactful as controlled buzz, but advertising is an art, whereas publicity is more of a craft, and though that may sound like simple dialect, there are very legitimate differences.
The biggest disparity between advertising and publicity lies in creative control. With ads, clients are paying for “space.” They have the power to decide how long their ads will go up for, what they will look like, and virtually get the benefit of premeditating every step of their execution. Publicity is another game. Public relations firms essentially have no control over how the media presents information; rather, their job is to make sure the exposure is there. The message can often spread very efficiently, but control over what the message is isn’t there.
Another key difference is the awareness of the consumer. People know when they’re reading ads, and furthermore, many enjoy doing so. While more subliminal ad campaigns do exist, things like TV commercials, billboards and radio spots appeal to our surface senses and often play like a game, where the winner figures out how to relate to our consumer sensibilities most effectively. With public relations, when a third party is harvesting your image, the intention is often not as clear. The third party will often have its own motivations, resulting in conflicting agendas which can muddle your message. We pay for advertising, but publicity often comes for free. TV stations get money to run commercials the way you see fit, but newspapers aren’t paid to interview you, and that’s because they do it the way they see fit.
Finally, advertisers create a product and brand from start to finish. Ad agencies often employ full ideation teams, graphic designers, copywriters, experiential marketers, account managers and other relevant roles. Publicity firms harness and spread the word. Their talents lie in connection more than creation.
Both advertising and publicity can be paramount to the success of certain brands, but they’re two very different things. But advertising is better. So there.