CK Insights

November 14, 2017

What PR Pros Can Learn from America’s Leading Advertisers

Ralph Katz

The post was co-authored by Kristin Cockerham and Ralph Katz

In early October, CooperKatz wrapped up its 20th year of producing the Association of National Advertiser’s Masters of Marketing Conference. After two decades of partnering with some of the most engaging advertisers in the world, we never fail to leave with insights that are highly applicable to the work we do every day.


If you made it to the Masters of Marketing this year, you were likely equally as impressed by the roster of chief marketing officers from Fortune 500 companies such as Procter & Gamble, Walmart, Cadillac, MGM International and Samsung.


For those who didn’t, here are three top takeaways from 2017.



1. Learn From Your Past


A key theme this year was learning from your brand’s history. In developing a campaign for Kentucky Fried Chicken, new agency partner, Weiden+Kennedy, went back to the company archives to examine what elements of the past had fueled success. That led to the decision to bring back Colonel Sanders with a fresh approach and inspired changes in brand visuals and brand messages.


Over our own agency’s history, we often review client archives as part of our approach. As we begin work with a successful brand, a deep understanding of the building blocks for that success can be invaluable in shaping the messaging and strategy for the brand today.


KFC’s agency dug into the archives and revived Colonel Sanders


Clorox CMO Eric Reynolds poked fun at his own brand’s long advertising history which included ripping on the competition, getting sued and always losing. It took Clorox decades to realize it needed to reframe its message.


Reynolds noted that if Clorox wanted people to become obsessed with its product, the company needed to focus on how the product helps consumers meet their goals in life.


Clorox’s “Clean Matters” campaign positions its products to be a means to an end: “Clean is the beginning – what comes next is everything.” This message resonates with us as PR professionals. We must always remember to tell the story; in this case how Clorox products help people reach their goals.



2. Create a culture where your team “has permission” to bring its best ideas



Two of our favorite presentations were by Lane Bryant CMO Brian Beitler and Donate Life America President CEO David Fleming with The Martin Agency CEO Matt Williams. They drove home the idea of knowing your audience and the call to action to “do what ya gotta do” to grab your customers’ attention.


Beitler unveiled the unapologetic #ImNoAngel campaign explaining that his team had no small task of redefining “sexy.” They wanted to prove to the world that women don’t relate, nor do they want to relate, to how the dominant force in the lingerie industry (cough, Victoria Secret) defines sexy.


His decision to spend one third of his annual budget to buy a wrap for a New York MTA subway F train paid off in big ways. The campaign went viral, due to the expert combination of a risky ad buy, bold creative and comprehensive PR support.


Lane Bryant’ unapologetic #ImNoAngel campaign took over New York MTA’s F Train



Donate Life America’s challenge was literally “life or death.” As an organization dedicated to increasing organ donations, they needed to reach millennial men because, frankly, that population takes risks which don’t always work out – and their organs can save lives. Yet the traditional approach of tugging on heartstrings was never going to resonate with this audience.


The eventual effort to sway millennial men was embodied in the “World’s Biggest Asshole” campaign. It centered on a brilliant video that was shared virally by thousands of young people and motivated 150,000 new millennial donors to sign up. For the organization, this meant producing a campaign that pushed against the comfort level of the board of directors and other stakeholders, to focus only on what would resonate with millennial men.


Too often agencies are limited by creative ideas that are comfortable for the client but may not be right for the core audience. We must always remind ourselves that precisely defining the objective and the audience from the start will lead to the best solutions.



3. Use your brand as a force for good



Nearly all 20 speakers touched on deliberate decisions to be purpose-driven brands and take a stand on issues they value through their communication initiatives.


Procter & Gamble Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard shared P&G’s #WeSeeEqual Corporate Responsibility Program campaign. P&G, the world’s biggest advertiser, put a stake in the ground on gender equality tied to International Women’s Day. With 45 percent of P&G managers and a third of its board now women, he underscored that P&G is reflecting on its own workforce. And he stressed that companies with large budgets need to fight the objectification of women in advertising. P&G amplified the campaign message through earned media, social media and speaking engagements, such as this ANA conference.


At CooperKatz, we increasingly amplify the purpose-driven messages of our clients. Not only is it good for corporations to share their values through all of their communications efforts, but engaging in CSR programs inspires employees and stakeholders to tell the positive stories of the business.


As we’ve seen with our own clients operating in the B2C and B2B worlds, we hope the communications industry – PR professionals, marketers and advertisers alike – will continue to raise the bar so the companies we represent learn from their past, give seemingly crazy, creative ideas a chance and become forces for good.


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