PR needs big media and ad-land to expand creative ideas

On Mother's Day, the White Ribbon Alliance launched its Million Mums campaign to get a million people in the UK to register their support for the reduction of maternal mortalities globally - and to raise a million pounds.

PR needs big media and ad-land to expand creative ideas
PR needs big media and ad-land to expand creative ideas

Deaths in childbirth cause devastation among families; orphaned babies are 10 times more likely to die in the first year of life. You might have seen the work of the alliance during Comic Relief, with Davina McCall touring African maternity wards. Go on, why don't you all sign up now at Millionmums.org?

It was a classic charity media exercise - no money, but bags of goodwill, celebs and contacts. An interview on GMTV with Davina and Sarah Ferguson, features in The Observer and Elle, and the posting of its film on YouTube and other friendly websites all contributed to as good a launch as one could expect with no cash - and all coordinated by PHD. PR and free media can go a long way.

The value of PR has been a much-discussed subject this week, exercising the minds of more eminent people than mine.

On the release of WPP's latest results, Sir Martin Sorrell talked about the increasing contribution that PR agencies are making to his group's turnover. This was in contrast to the less buoyant performances of those agencies involved in display advertising.

And Claire Beale's column in The Independent last Monday had the heading: "In the L-shaped gloom, PR and ad-land must wed."

She talked about Comparethemarket.com's Aleksandr the meerkat and the Hovis ad being given a life beyond the TV screen through clever PR.

Regular readers will know that I am a fan of integrated communications strategy; I have great respect for PR's contribution.

However, what struck me about both pronouncements (apart from wishing Sir Martin would throw some more positive shapes - let's have a swoosh next please) was the contradiction at the heart of them.

How would PR agencies continue to ply their trade if there were no vibrant editorial media, funded by display advertising, to ride on the back of?

How could PR extend a creative idea if it hadn't first been launched in big media?

These disciplines co-exist in a delicately balanced media ecology. It does no one any good to pretend that PR could thrive without display. The White Ribbon Alliance would certainly love to have had paid-for ads too and I'm confident it would have enjoyed an even bigger response if it could have managed it.

Tess Alps is chief executive of Thinkbox, tess.alps@haymarket.com

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