Monday, January 21, 2008

Book of the Month: The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR

Just as Time occasionally selects a Man of the Year due to his impact on society more than his contributions to society (Adolph Hitler, 1938; Joseph Stalin, 1939; You, 2006), SBB will occasionally offer up a Book of the Month that is more influential than it is exceptional. Our choice for January, 2008--The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR by father and daughter team Al and Laura Ries--is such a book.

Now, given the book’s title, it could be that I’m biased because I work in advertising. But here’s the catch: I also work in PR, so I just as easily could be in the choir to whom the Rieses are preaching. As a result, I ended up looking at the book pretty objectively and without much in the way of preconceptions. As I result, I found several flaws in the authors' logic, an oversimplification of several important issues, and somewhat of an ignorance of the true shift that both disciplines are experiencing. What we’re really seeing today is the fall of bad advertising and PR, and the rise of good advertising and PR. Your audiences won’t let you waste their time, whether you’re doing so in an ad, a news story, or anywhere else. The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR, however, ignores this reality and instead draws only from the best of PR and the worst of advertising. It’s kind of like saying that beef is better than chicken because filet mignon is better than the wings at KFC.

The Rieses seem to have come up with a thesis first and then found evidence to support it, while also ignoring anything that contradicted it. The unfortunate thing is that they could have written a more balanced argument and ended up sounding much more credible instead of looking like they’re out of touch and ill informed.

If you’re looking for a PR how-to manual, The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR offers some great suggestions. However, much of what the book says about advertising is either shortsighted or just plain wrong.
Tomorrow and Wednesday, I’ll post a few examples of where I think the Rieses miss the mark, along with a discussion of some important issues that affect those who work in advertising , PR, or both. If you've read it and would like to comment, I'd encourage you to do so after you've read all three posts about the book.

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