By: Jonathan Schultz
Whether you’re an advertising major or just an enthusiast from another discipline, one thing that we all have in common in AAF is that we want to break into the advertising world. We learn, train and practice for the day where we can work for some big agency, all on the assumption that we’ll have a job waiting for us one day, even if we have to work a little hard to get it.
That may all be about to change.
It was predicted by Al and Laura Ries in the 2002 release of their national bestseller, The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, that the role of the advertising industry as a brand builder is on the decline, being succeeded by a more prominent role of public relations in corporate promotional efforts. What this means is that advertising no longer holds all the coins in the world of promotions, but that it is becoming more and more simply a piece of a larger puzzle.
In his article, “Advertising Is Dead; Long Live PR,” author Harry Hoover states, “Although I still believe there is a place for advertising as a brand-maintenance or brand-affirmation tool, I am convinced that to build a brand today you need PR. At one time, advertising did build brands. But that was in a simpler world. That world, sadly, is no more.”
The rise of PR isn’t just some remote industry development; evidence of it can be found right here on the Illinois campus. As of last spring, a public relations certificate program is now offered to students of any college through an interdisciplinary study of journalism and advertising. This program is largely believed by faculty of the College of Media to be the birth of a much greater program that could evolve into a minor at some point, perhaps even a major. This is in conjunction with the Illini Publication Relations Association, another promotions RSO at Illinois, beginning the process transitioning into an official chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America.
Of course, not everyone agrees that PR is causing advertising to die out in its branding role. In Advertising is Dead: Long Live Advertising!, author Tom Himpe argues that what is dying is not the advertising industry as a whole, but rather traditional advertising in light of the rise of more alternative or guerilla campaign methods.
Himpe states, “Understanding that today’s consumers are smarter and ever more experienced at decoding advertising campaigns, advertising has the right, or even the duty, to be more enigmatic, mysterious and subtle.”
Only time will tell whether advertising and PR can get along in the promotions world or whether PR is clawing its way to the top. What is clear is that advertising is going to have to evolve alongside the audience that it targets if it wants to stay a relevant weapon in a promotional arsenal. For the advertising students’ sake, we can only hope so.