PR: HOW TO MAKE A SPLASH - Getting your ad in the news can be good for the brand. Meg Carter gets PR tips on attracting interest from the public and media

PR can add real value to an advertising campaign, yet agencies willing to lay the foundations for a clear PR strategy from the outset remain few and far between.

"PR can work really well when an ad campaign is truly interesting, newsworthy and where a PR team has been involved in the campaign development process from the beginning," Jackie Cooper, the founder of Jackie Cooper PR, says. Her agency's clients include O2 and Wonderbra. In conjunction with Scottish Courage's in-house PR function, Jackie Cooper PR also handled John Smith's campaign which generated approximately £1 million-worth of extra media coverage, according to Fairbrother Media.

Yet Cooper points out: "When ad agencies have the say over whether something is PR-able or not, PR people's hearts tend to sink. News in the ad business is rarely news outside. An ad must compete not just against other campaigns, but the broader news agenda. A campaign needs to be brave to be truly PR worthy - not necessarily controversial, but certainly something that gets noticed."

Disinterest and ignorance appear to be the two main reasons why more attention isn't paid by ad agencies to the PR potential of their work.

"I like PR and enjoy doing it on most campaigns. Some people aren't interested or don't bother. It's as simple as that," Matt Edwards, the new-business director at Lowe, admits.

An example of what can be achieved is Lowe's famous "blackmail" campaign for Heineken. Four TV spots were created featuring a blackmail theme where viewers were threatened with second-rate celebs singing if they didn't buy the beer.

While the ads aired in just an eight- week burst, they generated hundreds of newspaper articles - including the front page of the Daily Mirror.

The net effect was editorial coverage worth an estimated £616,000 in terms of media value, according to an independent audit.

Right at the top of the creative brief was to get the brand talked about by producing advertising that got talked about. Once the creative idea was agreed, Heineken's then consumer PR company, Shine, worked with Lowe to construct and implement a PR strategy. The idea was to choreograph carefully the release of details from each ad to boost consumer interest.

Shine kicked off its campaign as the first ad broke.

Once media (and public) interest hit what Edwards describes as "unexpected heights", Lowe took over handling calls from media and fielding interviewees.

What made the campaign newsworthy was a combination of celebrity and a fresh creative twist, Edwards believes.

Celebrities alone, while a conventional PR ploy, are no longer enough to make news, it seems - a point underlined by Martin Loat, a director of the media industry PR specialist Propeller Communications, which monitors PR exposure in its survey Ads that Make News.

"It is time ad agencies went beyond using a celeb, sex or controversy to get a bit of press for an ad," Loat observes. But their lack of news-management skills and turf wars between a client's ad agency and PR people can weaken an ad's PR potential. "Even now, despite all the talk of integration, PR remains the outsider. While many ad people talk about creating 'famous advertising', their tradition of paying for their media means they don't have a feel for creating editorial exposure and what makes 'a story'."

In short, they know they want PR, they just don't understand how to get it. Which is why Loat is offering ad and media agencies a PR service that goes beyond simply hyping up a given ad. He is currently negotiating to set up joint ventures with ad agencies to establish specialist units to create "ad extensions".

"It's a more strategic approach. It's about being in at the planning stage to implant images and ideas into the advertising so that it generates word-of-mouth and editorial pick-up. And then you add PR craft skills to maximise and control the extension," he explains.

"With agencies such as Naked subverting conventional media boundaries, many traditional agencies now recognise they may now be losing ground. There's a growing realisation that imagery created in advertising can live beyond it."

Richard Lamballe, the joint managing partner of the PR company Killa Communications, shares this view. Formerly a member of HHCL & Partners' Environment Marketing team launched in 1995 to create non-advertising solutions to enhance campaigns, Lamballe now works with agencies to better identify and exploit their creative work.

"ITV Digital's 'Monkey' proves how a character from an ad can become part of the popular consciousness," he says. "The challenge is to plan and manage this process rather than leaving it to chance."

Not all media interest can be carefully choreographed, however. And just as important an aspect of effective PR exploitation is knowing when to back off, he adds, and leave an emerging story alone.

When HHCL Red Cell created its "Slag of all snacks" campaign for Pot Noodle, controversy was the last thing intended, the agency says. "We knew the advertising would get people talking. We knew it was bold. But we didn't believe it would offend. We had informed our belief through target market research," the HHCL Red Cell planner, Andy Davies, insists.

Nevertheless, the bold strapline provoked enough public complaints in the first few weeks to force the TV ad to be amended. While tempting, "the strategy throughout was not to exploit the situation", the HHCL Red Cell Pot Noodle account director, Tanya Livesey, maintains.

"PR is an integral part of any campaign for Unilever," she explains.

"It works with Freud Communications on Pot Noodle, and the standard approach is to focus activity around a character or an actor in a particular ad."

"When the controversy arose we had no plans to exploit it and felt it would have been irresponsible to do so. The line got banned. That got reported. And for the target market this wasn't a problem."

In fact, it appears to have consolidated the new Pot Noodle brand positioning.

Tracking data showed the campaign quickly established itself among its target audience of 16- to 24-year-olds, with 54 per cent claiming awareness of the campaign in its early weeks and 85 per cent of these were aware the campaign was for Pot Noodle - a result, HHCL Red Cell believes, enhanced by strategic and "natural" PR.

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