Cannes 2024: We Just Decided To Lock Arms And Figure It Out

While traditionally PR and advertising agencies have kept their distance - with some viewing each other as competitors - the disciplines are increasingly putting their trepidation (and territorialism) aside in the interest of maximizing their output for brands.

“At the end of the day we're trying to solve a problem for our clients, and we need to bring the best tools in the toolbox,” said Omnicom Public Relations Group CEO Chris Foster, who over the last three or so years has forged a working relationship with DDB Worldwide, the holding company's ad agency.

“(They) have a responsibility to grow (their) business. I have one to grow mine,” he said.“We just decided to lock arms and figure it out.”

Foster's comments were part of an OPRG discussion at the 2024 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity last week that explored the longstanding walls between PR and advertising and the benefits of removing them in favor of collaboration. Participants also included DDB's Varsha Kaura, Omnicom's global client lead for Mars, Mars Pet Nutrition marketing VP Edwin Padilla and Ketchum executive VP Ilana Shenitzer. PRovoke Media CEO Arun Sudhaman moderated the talk.

Kaura, who along with Foster has led the OPRG/DDB partnership, said that the notion of PR and advertising protecting their shares of client work as key to retaining it no longer has merit, as integration has shown improved output - and results for brands.

“I think if we do not work like this, we will literally not progress because the end consumer, and I'm going to talk pet parents here, does not really care a damn about how we are structured, and they are completely being flooded, overwhelmed by stimulus all over the place” Kaura said.“So I think its mission critical that every holding company, for every company, look at all the capabilities and integrate it together. It's mission critical for us to service the pain points of our clients in the best possible manner and make marketing the differentiator.”

Foster said PR and advertising operating in siloes - driven by“fear, greed" and“a little territorialism” - is no longer viable at a time when“clients are getting smarter and more sophisticated and demanding different solutions.”

“We have a very different set of tools. So, if Varsha or myself or the team are looking at a brief, we are going to interrogate the brief very differently if we're looking at it with a PR lens or a creative lens. And it's going to get us to the brief behind the brief, which we're all seeking” Foster said.“We do that better when we bring the disciplines together.”

Padilla said he agreed based on both personal philosophy and business.“I always feel like if you're not evolving, you're missing out in this kind of world that we operate in,” he said.“If you're not looking out for what is the next way, and what his the most progressive way, to reach consumers and deliver what you need to deliver to them, you're almost aging yourself out of the game. This is a game of evolution.”

“Then there's the business. If I take a step back, we serve around 400 million pet parents globally. That's about half of pet parents all over the world Mars serves. Their expectations vary widely, and they keep raising the bar,” Padilla said. Having an infrastructure in place that would enable Mars to“mirror the fluidity by which consumers consume messaging today ... motivated me to try something different,” he said.

“When you pursue expertise, you create a very robust team,” Padilla said.

Shenitzer, who led the effort for Ketchum, said that one of the biggest challenges when the agency started working on the Mars business as“newbies” was to get more experienced partners at DDB to“trust us.”

“We had to prove our value to them because it was very easy for them to say, 'You don't know the brand. We know the brand, so listen to us.' And so it took us a little bit of time to get over that where we had to say, 'Let us just try. Let us get in here. We can try this,'” Shenitzer said.“Then it started to work.”

“And of course there are hiccups here and there, but overall we have just a really open honest communication now where we can move things forward,” she said.



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