The central thesis of The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR is simply stated by the authors. ‘You can’t build a new brand with advertising because advertising has no credibility… You can launch new brands only with publicity or public relations (PR)’.
It seems to me (though not to all) that it’s a surprisingly robust thesis. But I’d add two qualifications. It works best if the brand is a new technology product or service that, by definition, adds something new (think of Microsoft and Google). It also works well where the brand has a strong narrative (think Body Shop and its ethical campaigns).
But does it work for me-too products in mature industries? Probably not. Today, the first new national daily newspaper in twenty years appears in Britain. A narrative capable of strong PR support, you would think. There has indeed been some press coverage, but The Sportsman has been launched on the back of TV advertising and sponsorship (I noticed a Sportsman logo on Sky’s cricket coverage from India this morning).
This pattern repeats itself in another mature industry. Most cars need massive promotional budgets while the Toyota Prius thrives on ‘free publicity’ thanks to its novelty and strong environmental narrative.