Page 28 - AdNews April 2020
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Public relations, increasingly being called to the marketing table first, is shining in a broader advertising industry where mar- gins are squeezed and pitches are getting tighter.
The future is earned, socially-en- abled content, often built for specific platforms or devices, and public relations is well-placed to deliver.
In a challenging market, public relations has tended to be more resilient than the main business of advertising, according to indus- try analysts.
This is one reason why margins at PR units within the big advertising holding companies have improved in the last couple of years.
Another is the growing demand for earned media where third parties take up and adopt the thrust of a campaign, giving it currency beyond paid advertising. This includes the traditional news story via a main- stream publication but also now the growing universe of social media platforms, via text, audio and video.
This feeds into the stepped change in the way people now con- sume media. We’re all on our phones or other mobile devices, looking for authentic storytelling, a genuine piece of content that reso- nates with today’s life, information we can use, a social issue we can back, a movement to be a part of.
In dollar terms, these PR units, while smaller in dollar terms than
What type of content is in demand?
the core advertising and media engines of the holding companies, regularly outpace other profit centres in terms of margins.
In Australia, WPP AUNZ’s Public Relations and Public Affairs has recorded margins as high as 24% (half year to December 2018), well ahead of the core Advertising, Media Investment Management. But PR is a smaller revenue base.
In the six months to June 2019, PR pulled in about $29 million with a margin of 16.6%, which was only beaten by Data Investment Management at 17.2%. The margin for Advertising and Media Investment Management — with sales of $236.7 million for the six months — was 9.9%.
For the full year in 2019, PR at WPP AUNZ had a standout margin of 20% on revenue of $56 million. No other business unit came close.
Jens Monsees, CEO of WPP AUNZ: “We are obviously happy with the current margin, but we want to foster growth.”
He sees PR changing like most aspects of the business. “We are seeing a much more interesting move into the social space, but also into the influencer space. I see a lot of more celebrities coming up. If you think about how many brands are entering a new market, for example, China with a very strong influencer and digital PR strategy, then it’s one of the most compelling cutting instruments or communication instruments.”
  Tabitha Fairbairn,
managing director of Mango Communications, part of
DDB: Content that benefits the consumer. Just because a brand says it’s interesting doesn’t mean
it is. You have to start with the consumer and the conversation. What’s interesting to them? What is important to their world? Once we understand this, we can see where the brand has a legitimate place
to activate and an opportunity to provide value. Nailing this part means the content will have currency and, therefore, has
the potential to drive consumer engagement.
Richard Brett, CEO of opr agency: Video content is a
big growth area as more of us consume news and stories online. We are creating more video content, and interestingly both short, snappy, quick content
and also more long-form, slower format content, too. The rise of slow television is an interesting trend that is counter to the fast- paced world of social.
Leilani Abels, founder of independent agency Thrive PR: A mix of short and long form content, all complimented by visual content so it’s all about
bringing stories to life through graphics and visuals, whether that’s video, infographics, illustrations or motion visuals. The content, or “assets”, we build have multiple dimensions so we can repurpose stories across multiple channels. Once, we were producing stories for one medium only, but now we can create the one story with rich assets and it can have a
life on multiple channels and
be syndicated across hundreds of media. Corporate thought leadership content is also in high demand which is all about trust and reputation.
Roberto Pace, managing director, Eleven & FleishmanHillard at TBWA: Content that works first in
an earned format (for media, influencers, social sharing), but can then be cut for paid and owned channels. This typically means it’s long form and emotive with more functional versions for paid and owned.
Ashford Pritchard, co-founder and director of Kicker Communications: With the average consumer exposed to somewhere between 5000 and 10,000 marketing messages

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