4 PR lessons from the most thought-provoking campaigns of 2017

Jan 02, 2018
4 PR lessons from the most thought-provoking campaigns of 2017

Throughout the year, the current media, PR and marketing landscape, has exhibited campaigns that are more socially conscience with their messaging.

Companies and brands are using campaigns that incorporate all mediums, and that convey messages relevant to current events and global issues.  

In 2017, a truly effective campaign can no longer be a couple print ads in a newspaper simply promoting a company or product. It requires conducting thoughtful research, leveraging social media and utilizing a strong storyline to make an impact on your audience. This year especially we have seen a trend of brands stepping into social and political conversations.

Below are four of the most thought-provoking campaigns of 2017 and the PR lessons we can take from them as move into 2018.

1. 84 Lumber’s “The Journey” Advertisement

This year’s Super Bowl ad, “The Journey”, was a beautifully executed advertisement in which 84 Lumber workers built a door in Trump’s border wall to let in an immigrant family from Mexico.

The PR lesson

Be thoughtful with your messaging and the medium you use to ensure you are connecting with the public. This video captures and maintains the audience’s interest by taking you through a story that gradually allows the audience to piece together the subject of the ad. By creating such a thought-provoking ad that would be seen by millions of football fans, the company ensured they would be part of the conversation in the days following the big game. As a result of the ad’s popularity, millions of people ended up talking about a small lumber company.

2. Patagonia’s “Defend Public Lands” Advertisement

Patagonia posted their first-ever TV ad urging people to speak up and defend public lands, taking a strong stance against the selling off of America's national parklands. The ad follows Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia, while he hikes and explains the importance of protecting our national parks. Chouinard urges the public to hold the Secretary of the Interior responsible for protecting our “American heritage.”

The PR lesson

Authenticity is key when developing messaging and brand awareness. Patagonia has been at the forefront of the outdoor recreation industry so commenting on protecting public lands is a credible message as their mission is to provide gear and support for people who enjoy life in the outdoors. This campaign to protect public land is a great example of companies tying their messaging to their core values and mission. Consumers and the public are more receptive when companies show they care about similar issues and are working towards change. This authenticity in messaging creates loyal consumers and deepens the brand’s image.

3. GE’s “What if Millie Dresselhaus, Female Scientist, Was Treated Like a Celebrity?” Advertisement

GE gives us a glimpse of what the world would be like if we treated scientists and great inventors of our time as we do celebrities. The aim of this advertisement is to encourage women to excel in the technology field, contributing to their goal of placing 20,000 women in technical roles by 2020.

The PR lesson

Be creative when approaching your audience -- think of new storylines that will engage and encourage people to watch the advertisement to the end and develop their own conclusion. An electric company easily could have had an ad focus on the features of some new product, but instead GE chose to contribute to a larger industry issue and demonstrate something they consider part of their values as a company. GE's commentary on our current culture causes their audience to stop and think while also translating a hopeful and positive message. Through creativity, their ad was able to push their overall message of encouraging women to excel in the technology field, while also staying funny and relevant.  

4. Pepsi’s “Jump In” Advertisement

In the commercial starring Kendall Jenner, activists and protesters walk down the street approaching a line of police officers. Jenner joins the protestors and gives a police officer a Pepsi as a peace offering while the crowd cheers.

The PR lesson

Know your audience and do your homework. When aligning your brand with a movement, make sure the messaging also lines up with the movement's mission. This ad received a lot of criticism for being tone deaf and opportunistic, which further demonstrates the importance of researching your target audience and getting input from that specific cause so that your brand can be a positive change-maker with well thought out and executed campaigns. While the previous campaigns mentioned above were able to tie back to their missions or core values, this move by Pepsi only seemed to establish a disconnect.

In 2018, we can expect to see more of this trend of companies and campaigns going beyond just promoting themselves or a product, but promoting and demonstrating their core values. Campaigns are sure to focus on relevant social and global issues with genuine messaging to appeal growing consumer base of concerned people.

Daniella Burgos (@dburgos17) is an associate at Scott Circle (@ScottCircle), a full-service communications and PR firm based in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Screenshot via NBC News

About the author

Master Communicator. Total pop culture nerd. Typical Explorer. Wine enthusiast.

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