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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2002
The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR is a good overview of the weaknesses of the advertising sector. The rising costs (far in excess of inflation), declining credibility and decreasing media audiences for advertising are all valid points. But as my high school journalism teacher used to say, there is "an abundancy of redundancy" in this book. That in fact is it's first major weakness.
It's second major weakness is the premise that PR is "THE" answer for marketers. That simply isn't the full truth. The truth is that PR is an answer and an important one. But, PR is far from a silver bullet. As someone who has been involved in the marketing communications industry for 34 years and who owned a successful PR firm for 13 of those years, I can say that PR suffers from its own significant limitations. PR can't be controlled; the "news hole" in newspapers, magazines and in the electronic media is shrinking as costs increase and the audience is balkenized; and, PR efforts are never guaranteed to deliver any audience. Those aren't insignificant problems to overcome.
The real answer is an intelligently integrated mix of advertising, Public Relations, direct, interactive and viral marketing selected by someone who knows what they are doing; who is focused on matching the marketing communications plan and its implementation to the budget and financial objectives of the client; and who takes the time to understand the wants and needs of the customer.
Nevertheless, Ries and Ries perform a valuable service of exposing the weaknesses inherent in the advertising business. The points they make are valid and one conclusion is clear. Somethings going to give in the advertising world. This is the books major strength. To get the full picture, read "The Tipping Point" and "Integrated Marketing."
Finally, as an old PR practioner who has fought this fight inside many an agency meeting, it's simply delightful to read a book (however repetitive it might be) extolling the virtues of Public Relations.
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50 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2002
Don't be victimized by this shallow, self serving analysis that is purely intended to stir up controversy thereby selling books at the expense of the readers best interests and the reputation and credibility of the authors. There are too many flaws in their reasoning to discuss here, but here are the main ones.
-- They indite advertising by calling attention to the dot bombs and their advertising campaigns... as though advertising caused the failure of these Internet based companies. Let's use their cover story as a case in point. Was the failure of pets.com the result of it's ad campaign or was it because the company was founded on a flawed business model? The campaign was very creative and memorable. People loved the sock puppet. But not enough to make them go online and order mass quantities of dog food and cat chew toys! People naturally prefer to buy that stuff as needed in the grocery store. Don't hang that one on the advertising, Al. The best P/R in the world couldn't have saved that company.
-- Other examples of "advertising failures" are similarly flawed. Did Chevrolet lose market share because they advertised, or because the Japanese and Germans built better cars at cheaper prices? If they had placed P/R stories instead of ads, would consumers have paid more to get an inferior car? Don't be absurd.
-- They indite advertising as being less credible and more self serving than P/R which is viewed as a third party source. That may be true, but that also makes P/R an undependable medium when it comes to promoting a brand. Why? Because the print editors and broadcast producers ARE a third party and they may or may not decide to run your story! They may not review your product, they may decide to blast it or they might ridicule and make fun of it. And, even if the editor was planning on giving you a favorable story, a heavy news day could wipe it out. P/R firms don't guarantee placement, so you could pay out big bucks and come away with nothing but a few mentions in some minor publications.
-- It's clear that neither Al nor Laura Reis have ever practiced P/R. They contend that P/R is best suited for building the brand and generating awareness. After you have built the brand, they say advertising is acceptable for maintaining it. (This contradicts what they say about the market share loses of Coke and Chevy) But the authors forget that start-ups with no recognition are often considered un-newsworthy and frequently get overlooked by editors. Let's say you are a busy editor or producer bombarded with hundreds of press releases on new products and companies. Are you more likely to look at a release from Coca-Cola or some new company called Ima-cola II? Let's consider a business-to-business scenario. You have two releases. One is from Microsoft and another is from Bumstuck Software. Who's product get's reviewed?
-- And, who says the media is unbiased? A few jounalists have integrity, but the papers and stations they work for can compromise that integrity in a heartbeat. If a company is spending a million in advertising with AOL/Time Warner, would you say they would get more attention than a company that spends zilch? If the company that's spending zilch starts getting enough publicity to begin taking market share from their large rivals, who is the media going to protect...their loyal advertisers or a new brand that says they don't believe in advertising?
-- Finally, the Reis duo claims that success in launching a new product is contingent on P/R to position the company as the first in a category! Like Atari was first in the video game category? Like Commodore was first in the desk top computer category? Like Prodigy was first in the IP category? Instead of being the first mover, it's better to be the last man standing. That's the lesson the Reis' team should have learned from the dot bombs.
A legendary ad man named Howard Luck Gossage said that, "People don't read ads. People read what interests them. And, sometimes, that's an ad! If you write an intriguing ad people will pay attention. If your message is believable, people will believe it. GOOD advertising works. So does GOOD P/R. But bad advertising and bad P/R are wastes of money. Any new revelations here?
Both advertising AND P/R are components of any good integrated marketing campaign. The advantage of advertising is that it says what you want, when you want to say it and in the medium in which you want it to be placed. It's credible if you write good copy and articulate a believable case for your product. P/R may be more credible, but only IF it is favorably written, IF it is favorably placed and IF it appears at the right time to help move your product. Those are some pretty big "IF's". Any brand manager that knows his profession, will use both advertising and P/R in tandem to generate brand preference. But for most brands, the mix should favor good advertising versus undependable P/R!
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36 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2002
If John Ralston Saul ever decided to write a book to debunk the advertising world's groupthink about its almighty influence on the consumer, this would be it.
I read this book on a flight from LA to Toronto and couldn't put it down. I found that this book answered questions that I had often asked myself about whether advertising really impacts sales numbers. If you ever sit in front of the tv and wonder "Who is the genius that thought that ad would actually get me to buy something?" or you get the Energizer bunny confused with Duracell you might find this a very interesting read.
The book is broken down into four parts:
The Fall of Advertising which details various arenas in which advertising proclaims its superiority (Advertising and Car Salesmen, Advertising and the Dotcoms, Advertising and Credibility are some chapter titles);
The Rise of PR in which there is a primer of sorts on how PR can be used more effectively than advertising (Rebuilding an Old Brand with PR, Dealing with Line Extensions);
A New Role For Advertising in which the authors suggest that the bathwater not get completely tossed out with the baby--that advertising does have a place....as a cart after the horse (Maintaining the Brand);
and finally The Differences Between Advertising and PR which gets a little cloying in the use of analogies but is a good read nonetheless (Advertising is the Wind. PR Is the Sun, Advertising is Incredible. PR is Credible.)
What I liked about the book:
1. It has a breezy, shoot from the hip conversational feel
2. There are ample anecdotes backing up the hypotheses--makes for a very lively read...lots of "Oh ya...I always WONDERED about that" responses.
3. It made me really think about how brainwashed our society is about the value of advertising.
4. This book also gave me some insights as to how to continue as I launch my new company...pitfalls to avoid and things to definitely do.
I am not particularly well-read in this field so this was a good intro to the subject for me.It might be too rudimentary for some. I am definitely going to check out the authors' other books on Positioning and 22 Immutable laws of Branding.
The only tiresome aspect I found in the book is the RELENTLESS repetition of the "Publicity builds brands not advertising" axiom. If one mention is good, 43 mentions is better? I would also have appreciated footnotes on the sources for some of the stats and graphs used in the book. Would have added additional scholastic integrity to the figures.
Otherwise, I would highly recommend the book.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2002
As a public relations professional for the past 20 years, I welcomed this book. I certainly agree with his premise - Advertising doesn't live up to the claims - It is a broken function that often doesn't focus on the needs of the company. However, the author's indignant treatment and baseless accusations are hard to take and doesn't make the point.

The author needs to back up his statements. You can't just say the same thing over and over and expect people to accept it because you've said it 100 times. "Advertising has no credibility," - according to what study? "Public relations is believed by the consuming public," - prove it. Public relations is X% more believable according to this research. I know these things to be true but this book did nothing to forward the argument.

And come on - the country of Guatemala should change its name to attract more tourists? Kiwi airlines failed because it had a bad name? What about overhead spending, an increasingly difficult regulatory environment, diminishing demand, etc. He ignores the millions of other factors when making his wild claims. The author's analysis is too simplistic and one-dimensional.

I'm saddened by all of this. I was hoping for evidence, not just anecdotal evidence and far-flung examples, but real research. This comes off as just another insecure PR guy grasping for what he can to make his point. There is more to this profession!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2005
Once you get through too many pages of what's wrong with advertising, you finally get to the positive message about how Public Relations is actually the umbrella discipline and advertising can support the PR effort, which is something Public Relations Society of America has confirmed. While I enjoyed reading the many examples of how advertising fails, the negativity started to grate on me, so I skipped ahead to learn more about this philosophy and how to tailor pitches for new business. A must read for PR practitioners.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2004
The book states over and over that PR is great for brand-building, but never bothers to offer any tips on how to plan or implement a PR campaign. It could have at least given a few pointers on what to include (or not include) in a press release. Or, it could have given some guidance on how to select a PR firm. But, it's an easy read and somewhat entertaining.
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38 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2002
Maybe I'm just having a bad day but this is quite possibly the worst book I've ever read. I bought this book hoping for an education on what Public Relations offers versus Advertising and how to use this to my benefit. Instead, I received page after page of trite comparisons of advertising to any number of things followed by week, factless reasoning as to why that particular comparison is bad. This book is no more than Public Relations people on a very rickety soap box yelling out self-gratifying opinions. If ever in my life I again read a page that compares advertising to The Buckingham Palace it will be entirely too soon.
Page 19, "You can recognize art by its extensive use in everyday language. Even though the sword has no function in today's society, it does live in the language. Nobody says, 'Live by the gun, die by the gun.'" (end of paragraph)
Wow, mesmerizing.
If you were thinking of buying this book, Don't. If you've already purchased this book, Do not open it. Return it as fast as possible before it makes you less intelligent through the void of reason it exudes and it's proximity to your brain.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2003
I'm not a mkting professional nor an Adman and yet i could see right through the thinly constructed arguments in this tome. For example, the authors cite an alternative strategy (presumably in lieu of mkting / advertising campaigns in known travel and other publications) they would recommend to the central american country Guatemala to increase their share of worldwide tourism spend. They're concept is simple, rename the country 'Guatemaya' to reflect its Mayan heritage.
Bloody hell! That's something one might vet internally BEFORE the client meeting along with all the other goofy stuff one throws out during the creative process, but to actually suggest something like that to the client?
Wow... i put the book down right there...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Al and Laura Ries discuss why PR is more believable and so more effective to build a brand. The role of advertising is to manage the brand once it has been built up by supporting the PR message. Current focus on creativity in advertising is misplaced. This is because although creativity may lead to advertising awards, it rarely leads to increased sales. Instead PR is where creativity needs to be applied for appropriately positioning the product in the customers' mind. PR is more believable by the customer because it reflects opinions and views of third parties. This believability more than outweighs the loss of control in having third parties provide public opinions on your product and results in higher sales.

The book gets three stars because the supporting arguments are simplistic, and the authors belabor the above points for ~300 pages. Also, there is no discussion on the evolving blogs and how they can be used to execute PR effectively.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2003
I recall reading an article in HBR that questioned the efficacy of traditional advertising and the humongous marketing budgets that are allocated to it. Pick up the book "HBR on Brand Management" and indeed the first case study addresses this issue. It _is_ a very pertinent, timely and important question: how to allocate your budgets across the different forms of marketing touchpoints? And there's ample evidence to show how media other than advertising lead to the phenomenal success of products.
Carrie Bradshaw, the protagonist of the hot HBO show "Sex And The City" spends more than she can afford from her journalist salary on Hermes Birkin bags and the whole world sends the brand (a simple bag for god's sake) into a waiting list of not weeks, not months, but 3 years! Michael Moore decides that he doesn't have the budget to market his next fabrication ("Stupid White Men") so he cultivates a clever little following through the use of online channels. A "big3" US automotive manufacturer creates a frenzy for its new product launch through a kiosk placed in a popular spot at Disney World and with a clever unprecedented campaign. Prada launches a classic architectural marvel of a store in NY and then gets a zillion journalists to write about it in business magazines, NYT, fashion magazines, architectural publications etc.
The common theme underpinning the success of these initiatives is that these novel marketing ideas, or PR, are inherently credible because consumers KNOW that the product's endorsement does not come from its vendor but from "trusted" third-party mavens in the society. Advertising on the other hand suffers from an intrinsic bias of hawking one's wares.
That, to me, is the crux of this all-too-important argument and the one that Ries & Ries intended to veer their book around.
HOWEVER, I am sorry to say that their endeavour is a mediocre one at best as they try to wrap a blanket around the question and suggest that ONLY public relations is the cassandra call that marketers need to heed. Doesn't tickle my fancies, sorry. The truth is not black or white. If Sony gives up all advertising and relies ONLY on creative little PR ideas to do ALL its marketing, it is anyone's guess what will happen to it in the medium to long run. It smacks of intellectual dishonesty to cite examples of doozy advertising campaigns such as the one from pets.com -- and conveniently skipping the pitfalls of unsuccessful PR -- to grind their one-sided axe. Doesn't really help their case that PR is not really "this new marketing strategy", it has just been used creatively by the examples they impose on the readers.
But this logical fallacy aside, the book also disappoints against the litmus of purely a decent casual read. Several cliches line the text ("sky's the limit", "throw gasoline on fire"), as do unbelievable exaggerations ("Every brand that got to the top got there through PR" -- I dont think so, sorry).
For a much more succint yet compelling treatment of this subject, I recommend the first chapter of the book "HBR on Brand Management" which talks about media allocations. For the practice of PR in general, you'd be better off reading the much more balanced "The Practice of Public Relations" by Fraser Seitel.
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