VCCP’s Jed Hallam offers a meaty blog post about the ongoing debate as to the relative strengths and weakness of the advertising and PR industries when it comes to taking ultimate ownership of social and/or digital. Although, of course it’s much more nuanced than that.
Jed appears firmly on the side of advertising as eventual winner – while nodding to the reality that the way we consign certain agencies into industry types is largely flawed as whether an agency is an ‘advertising’ or ‘PR’ agency is increasingly blurred in today’s socially mediated landscape. And moreover, who wins will be ultimately determined by the clients who will want the best work regardless of a perceived historical and industry legacy.
Anyway. This perennial debate reminded me of another great post by Anthony Mayfield on similar issues. Except his post was made in November 2007. That’s nearly five years ago. In his post Anthony argues not so much that advertising will win the digital battle royale, but rather that the PR industry had structural and legacy issues to overcome if it was to succeed in a digital-led world.
Here’s the quotation:
PR agency models may be less able to assimilate than be be assimilated: One of the curiosities of the PR agency business is that aside from the very largest agencies (and even including a few of them) most are businesses comprised of generalists, with business development, marketing, HR, client management, creative, copywriting, event management, media relations and measurement all done by the same people. I’ve never met the PR agency that has a project manager or a quality assurance person. This makes it hard to scale these businesses and it also means than they are perhaps less able to bring in new disciplines and approaches than businesses that are structured like, well, businesses.
Of course, you could argue that PR agencies can restructure to accommodate new models, but compare this to big agencies in comparable sectors who already operate in this way. Compare this to smaller, more nimble social/digital-first agencies (not unlike my old brethren at We Are Social) who are growing and building their structure in this way from day one.