Line Between PR and Advertising is Blurry

I have been working in Public Relations for just over two years now. In college it was very easy for me to tell the difference between advertising and PR. Advertising is paid and PR is free (earned). The more I continue to work in PR the more I see that is not true.

Here is an example. I mostly see this with magazines, but it can occur anywhere. Some magazines are not be willing to publish editorial content unless my client is advertising with them. I have only been in the game for a couple of years, however my more seasoned colleagues tell me the editorial and advertising departments used to be completely separate. The line is now blurred.

Here is a direct quote from an Editor/Publisher after I pitched a great well-research idea for their magazine. “We usually run editorial in conjunction with our advertising packages.”

Even though the idea was interesting and relevant to the publication it would never see print because my client wasn’t advertising. To an extent I get their dilemma, it’s because print is dying.

Occasionally I will also submit different clients for awards. One Marketing Director told me that my client would have a better chance of winning if they were a regular advertiser. When I heard this for the first time I was shocked. Shouldn’t the product be chosen because it’s a good product? That is not always the case. I have one client that consistently wins an award every year because they are a regular advertiser.

I was also talking with a co-worker that was a former editor of a magazine. He specially mentioned that they wouldn’t run editorial on a product if they stopped advertising, or weren’t advertising a lot. Even though the information was newsworthy enough for the magazine it was not included. AS the publishers they have the discretion to do that, but it was very eye opening.

I don’t run into this every day. I have a lot of success working with social media influencers and other publications that are willing to publish relevant content. I just think it is interesting that the line between PR and advertising is crossing.

This has been my experience, but I am excited to see if this anyone else has had a similar experiences.

Here are a two examples. One more recent and one from a couple of years ago.

My friend showed me this video where Martin Garrix did a concert for deaf people. It was awesome! So, is this advertising or PR?

In my opinion this is PR. My rationale is because the video was made to evoke emotion and to make you think highly of 7UP. Most advertisements are meant to push products and they have that “buy me now” feel. Those aren’t the feelings that I get from this video. I would also have no problem sharing this video on social media but I would definitely not share a 7UP commercial. I don’t even like 7UP.

This is where things get complicated. This video wasn’t free. Martin Garrix was obviously compensated and there were thousands of dollars spent on the concert and video production. Per my definition above, PR is anything that is free, right?

Here is a definition that I came up with for these type of videos.
PR Driven Content: Content that is created in order to evoke emotion, but is not necessarily focused on pushing or selling products. Most of the videos that I have seen like this are funny and relatable to any audience.

Here are two other examples:

Recently Lyft has created a campaign by having celebrities go undercover as Lyft drivers. They are hilarious! It’s a funny video that people would have no problem sharing even if they were a constant Uber user. Their undercover videos have a combined amount of around 16 million views.

By my definition all of these PR-Driven Content videos cost money and were sponsored by a product or service. So what do you guys think, are they advertising or PR?


Breakfast War 2014: Taco Bell vs. McDonalds











Taco Bell vs. McDonalds, the breakfast war continues!

Yesterday March 27. Taco Bell released their breakfast menu nation wide and today McDonalds placed their counter move.

McDonalds will now be giving away free coffee from March 31 until April 13.

Taco Bell released some hilarious ads obviously targeting McDonalds.

When I saw this ad I couldn’t stop laughing. I thought it was great PR and Advertising. I am not sure what has gotten into Taco Bell, but I love it.

I haven’t tried the new breakfast food yet, but I hear it is just like any other fast food breakfast. I don’t even care if the food is good I am just happy that Taco Bell is fighting against the big M.

It’s great to watch. Taco Bell has been all over Twitter with the anticipation of the new menu.

According to USA Today, Breakfast is widely regarded as the last, best growth segment in fast food. It’s a $50 billion business, estimates Technomic.

McDonald’s has cornered that breakfast market for decades with more than one-quarter of the fast-food breakfast business, but it’s suddenly feeling new pressure from such unlikely breakfast competition as Taco Bell and Starbucks.

CEO Don Thompson has said that the chain’s new product pipeline needs to improve. And February sales at its stores open at least 13 months fell 0.3%, as its U.S. business slumped for the fourth consecutive month in the midst of ghastly winter weather.

In the USA Today article Ron Paul, president of Technomic said, “So far, no one has been able to compete with McDonald’s at breakfast. Everyone is grabbing for a little bit of market share wherever they can get it.”


If they are not worried why are they giving away free coffee?

I don’t think that McDonalds is going to lose a lot of sales, but it is interesting to see their counter moves.

Recently I received McDonalds breakfast coupons in the mail suspiciously close to when Taco Bell was going to release their breakfast menu.

The timing of everything is interesting. They aren’t worried, but they are giving out coupons to get people to come and now giving away free coffee.

McDonalds you can put your PR game face on all you want, but we all know that you are a little scared.

Freebies are a last resort and you know it.


Super Bowl Advertising or Super Bowl Public Relations?


If you had the chance to watch the commercials during the Super Bowl you might have noticed a couple of things.

One, is that the advertising wasn’t really advertising it was more public relations.

How many times did you actually see the company mention price or tell consumers to buy the product?

I don’t think I saw one dollar sign in any commercial.

Think about it. What ad stuck out the most?

One commercial that stuck out to be more PR than advertising was Coca-Cola. It wasn’t meant to be funny, it was meant to share a message and bring people together.

In case you missed it here it is.

What was the message that they were trying to send? Everyone is American even though they aren’t from America. At least that’s what I got from it.

Budweiser won the USA Today voting with their PR commercial Puppy Love. It has nothing to do with Budweiser. It has a puppy in it, of course people are going to love it.

Now after watching that don’t you have a better feeling about Budweiser even if you don’t enjoy their beer? It has gotten 43.5 millions views in 6 days.

The commercial that generated the most publicity and buzz before the Super Bowl were the Bud light commercials. They were genius in their planning.

Bud Light released short 30 second commercials showing bits and pieces of the commercial that would air during the Super Bowl. When I saw the ad I immediately looked it up on Google to find what it was about.

They used two spots in the first quarter to tell the whole story. It had people on the edge of their seats. It had a lot of hype leading up to it and has generated earned media after the fact. ABC did an interview with the unsuspecting person in the commercial (Ian Rappaport).

The examples can go on, but the point is Public Relations is on the rise and advertising is dying.

Here are some stats to prove my point:


GM spent $819,000,00 advertising its Chevrolet

Ford spent 39% LESS and Ford outsells Chevrolet by 39%

“Just because you out-advertise your competition doesn’t mean you are going to outsell them.”

*Stats and quote from book, “Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR” by Al Ries and Laura Ries. I highly recommend it.

Red Bull: YouTube King

Red Bull: YouTube King

Red Bull has done just a good job at branding their image that sometimes I forget that they are an energy drink. I can’t remember the last time I have seen a “Red Bull gives you wings” commercial.

Words like extreme sports, dirt bikes, skydiving and space jump come to mind when I think of Red Bull. They now have over 3 million subscribers on YouTube. Why? Because they partner with extreme sports and everybody loves watching death-defying feats.

Red Bull has over 1.2 million twitter followers, I just became one yesterday. They must be doing something right.

That right thing is that your advertising and PR doesn’t have to directly promote your product. Never have I seen a commercial where they show a Red Bull.

They are first on YouTube and the second place company is Playstation, they aren’t even close. They have a little more than 2 million.

Here are the top 10, according to Mashable:
1. Red Bull
2. PlayStation
3. Rockstar Games
4. Apple
5. GoProCamera
6. Rovio Entertainment
7. Ubisoft
8. Nike Football
9. DC Shoes
10. Pepsi