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Ries is 'half right' on brand building

In "Ries' thesis: Ads don't build brands, PR does" (AA, July 15), Al Ries has it half right. Ads alone don't build brands. That's true. However, in today's Age of the Customer, it's the customer experience that has more to do with brand building than anything else. Brands aren't monolithic and pushed down from the top to the customer. Brands are "lived" and adapted by each customer according to their own individual "experiences" with them. It's what we marketers do with the insights we obtain from these experiences that will make the difference.

So brand building today takes place one customer experience at a time. And positive brand experiences are built by creating relevancy for that individual customer across all channels-direct marketing, advertising, PR, interactive and promotions.

It is clearly not a question of one marketing discipline or the other, as Ries suggests. It's a question of ensuring that each respective marketing discipline evolves and keeps pace with the evolution of an increasingly sophisticated consumer.

We have moved away from the time when advertising's main function was to create awareness and favorable attitudes for a product. We are smack in the middle of an era in which the focus is on the customer's experiences with the brand and his or her subsequent purchase behavior. Consumers today ask: "This is what I need; can you make it? And will you communicate to me about it in this particular way?" There is no communications panacea.

This isn't the first time we've seen "voodoo" marketing promoting one discipline over another. Smart marketers know that one tactic doesn't supplant a smart mix of marketing communications channels and messages over the long term.

Daniel Morel



New York

PR: big potential and real limits

Having worked on both sides of the advertising/PR divide, I am reasonably well-placed to comment on the issues raised in your article on Al Ries' new book, "The Fall of Advertising and Rise of PR" ("Ries' thesis: Ads don't build brands, PR does,"AA, July 15).

Public relations is potentially the most powerful means at the disposal of brand owners. Unfortunately, PR agencies do themselves few favors with the indiscriminate way in which they sell their services. After 12 years in the PR industry, I came to the depressing conclusion that 75% of product PR was a complete waste of time, whilst the remaining 25% was incredibly effective, but under-rewarded and under-appreciated by clients. If the PR industry could only find a way to charge more for the good stuff and resist the temptation to grab every brief, no matter how appropriate, PR could truly become the most powerful marketing-services discipline.

Despite what PR agency people tell themselves and their clients, very few product stories are of genuine interest to consumers and the media. Great products, in high-interest categories, will always sell themselves-with a little help from a smart publicist. But for the vast majority of products, lacking any real differentiation or consumer interest, PR can only be a support medium for the other marketing-communications disciplines.

Martin Thomas

Worldwide Total Communications Director



Soccer fan Hatfield fighting lost cause

Stefano Hatfield must have run out of things to say when he decided to write his column "It's world's `beautiful game' except for here in the U.S." (Viewpoint, AA, June 10). He is beating a dead horse. Soccer is boring-especially watching it on TV. It's even more boring than watching baseball on TV. Americans like scoring. It's why football and basketball do well. It's why hockey does poorly, and if baseball wasn't our national pastime, and hadn't been around for 100 years, it would have a problem as well. It still may if we get another strike. Golf and tennis do well because we can play them forever, regardless of our age.

The other things that come into play are [marketers] that make money on selling sports equipment. They won't promote soccer because there's not enough revenue there for them. It's the same way the manufacturers don't market to junior golfers. There are more than 8 million kids playing golf. Kids don't pay for the equipment. Mom and Dad pay.

Soccer will never be a glamour sport in the schools. It's un-American in origin and in players. As long as young girls idolize boys that play football, basketball and our other historical sports, soccer will always take a backseat in participation. To keep beating this dead horse, in print or otherwise, is a waste of a tree. Let the little kids have fun playing it. I think it's the best for now that he can hope for.

Joel Kessler

Advertising Director

Naples Illustrated

Naples, Fla.

Just let Rosie be

Is it necessary for James Brady to badmouth Rosie every week (Brady's Bunch, AA, July 15, July 8)? Expecting her to behave like Betty Crocker-or any other cardboard brand-is naive. Her millions of readers hardly seem perturbed by her outspokenness. She's a delightful change from the airbrushed faces and lives that characterize most women's magazines.

So let the lady, with her honesty, humor and humanitarianism, be.

Susan Breslow Sardone


Writing That Sells

New York


* In the table "Magazine ad page leaders" (July 22, P. 18), some of the figures for percentage change in first-half ad revenue were incorrect. A corrected table can be found at AdAge.com QwikFIND aan80x.

* In "I dream of Jenna" (Adages, July 15, P. 28), it was incorrectly stated that Vivid Video Entertainment was producing an action figure doll of adult movie star Jenna Jameson. The action figure doll is being marketed by Plastic Fantasy, Los Angeles.

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