Dorothy Crenshaw October 7, 2014 | 11:42:16

What PR People Should Know About Advertising Week

Despite the ad-tech buzzwords and marathon-like scheduling, Advertising Week is an upbeat and insightful event for PR professionals. Yes, the jargon is a killer – and in the manner of German compound words, it’s all starting to combine, as in “programmatic premium direct” and “mobile native.”

But what can PR professionals learn from the weeklong ad-tech extravaganza? Here’s what impressed me.

Native advertising is here to stay. No surprise, but this is arguably the most relevant advertising trend for PR, since native advertising and branded content blur the line between paid and editorial media and can signal a struggle for budget between the two. Good luck trying to follow the money to determine how large today’s content budgets are and where the dollars are coming from; as Rebecca Lieb posts, you’re not likely to find clarity on who’s winning. But larger agencies like Edelman have said they see an opportunity to enter the paid space and have invested accordingly, promoting “newsrooms” for sponsored content and even paid native ads.

The “expert” has been redefined.  With YouTube star Bethany Mota joining the 2014 cast of “Dancing With The Stars,” we’ve come a long way from old-school celebrity endorsement. Social media has created a fresh new crop of social influencers like Mota and Smosh, and with them, a more authentic and organic way of aligning brands with spokespersons. These newish influencers are particularly effective when it comes to reaching digital natives, which brings us to the next topic that today’s marketers are obsessed with – that’s right, Millennials.

Millennials rule.  There was nearly constant discussion of marketing to Millennials, but Exponential’s Bryan Melmed had one of the best presentations on this segment. Except he doesn’t see it as a segment at all, but as 12 distinct cohorts, from tech-enthused “brogrammers” to Millennial Moms – a supremely influential group. This is one label that simply defies description in traditional marketing terms.

Everything is mobile. The data around the rise of mobile content consumption is startling. But what does it mean for PR? First, we need to produce content that’s mobile-friendly. This translates into short bites, images, infographics, and video. But the mobile revolution also has implications for how we design and develop campaigns. The enormous amounts of data produced offer user information that is far more granular than anything we’ve had in the past, enabling content and messages to be fine-tuned in real  time – which can play to the traditional PR strengths of flexibility and fluidity.

Segmentation is dead.  Melmed shook things up when he declared, “There’s no such thing as Millennials,” but he’s right. Led by digital advertising, marketing has rejected the outdated market segmentation methods that were once followed, and that PR slavishly adopted for our own programming. Today’s content, stories, campaigns, and influencers must be selected and designed to appeal to values, interests, and social spheres, not demography like age or region.

Performance is the new black. This was the title of a standing-room-only panel sponsored by our client Purch that featured a staggering lineup of media and marketing talent, but the upshot for PR people points to ever more refined metrics and a clear ROI for the spend. With the rise of programmatic and other methods that squeeze the waste out of the paid ad investment and measure conversions with a high level of precision, the pressure is on PR to standardize metrics, not for conversion, but for what we can do: influence behavior, build trust, and even generate leads. Digital advertising is ruthless, and for PR to compete, we need to toss out the fuzzy metrics and commit to clear outcomes that support business goals. In the end, it all comes down to performance.

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