May 5, 2013 by Tamara Piety
This article in the New York Times “The New Look of Public Relations” confirms the interpenetration of advertising and marketing with traditional public relations. One wonders whether FleishmanHillard’s new motto “the power of true” is sort of like “truthiness” – like true, only better – fact free! Well, okay, advertising isn’t entirely fact free, but it is definitely usually easier that way. This sort of move is an example of a move toward IMC or “integrated marketing communications.” As all communications strategies and vehicles are put into service to sell people things it becomes harder to identify selling attempts. But of course advertisers mostly don’t want you to identify something as an attempt to sell you something and thus put you on the defensive (even if your skepticism is no match for their market research). They want people to “connect” emotionally and bypass skepticism altogether. As one advertising executive interviewed in the article put it, IMC is about “trying to connect people with people to connect with brands…” That is right. It is. But of course you can’t really “connect” with a brand. You buy it or you don’t. And the seller has a financial interest in trying to persuade you to do so, whether you need it or not, whether you can afford it or not, whether it is good for you or not. Blending advertising and entertainment content, PR with marketing, just makes its that much harder to tell when you are being pitched. And of course the more legal protection we give to some part of this mishmash, the more all of it comes to be seen as theoretically subject to protection.