on June 30, 2004
For some reason, Both Ries and Trout get away with recycling their old material and putting a new name on it.
More than that, you couldn't tell that their partnership fell apart years ago since the same ideas, and more importantly, the same examples are used extensively in each man's books.
These guys must LOVE Papa Johns (or be shareholder's, as they both mention the compony time and time again (In multiple books as well) as some paragon of food and of great marketing. As far as I'm concerned, Papa John's is indistinguishable from Domino's. I wonder if either man has ever even tried it.
Anyway... back on track.
This book continually simplifies the reasons behind the success and/or failure of various companies and products to the poor use of publicity. No mention of poor management or rationalizing markets, or the fact that the product or service stunk in the first place.
The most appaling thing is this guy has the balls to tell the city of Cusco in Peru and the country of Guatamala, they should change names in order to attract visitors. (Ciudad de las Incas and Guatamaya, respectively). I don't know if this is marketing ignorance, or American disregard for foreign cultures, but I couldn't believe what I was reading.
He continues to show his ignorance of technology and pop culture with incorrect example after incorrect example.
For example, he points out that there was once a beer called Yuengling that failed because of it's name. Guess what, Al, Yuengling, is alive and doing pretty well.
Also chapters are repetitive. After reading about Red Bull 3 times, in as many chapters, it got a little boring
To sum it up: Advertising is bad, Brand extension is bad. Anyone who didn't listen to his advice is now out of business, Papa John's is great. There I saved you the agony of reading this (Or anyother of his books or the books by Jack Trout) and $15.
Save your money. A stinker of a book.
on June 23, 2004
The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR by Al Ries & Laura Ries
I agree with the thesis of this book: PR can change perceptions but advertising can't. I've been preaching about the credibility of PR for years (it's more believable because the message is delivered by the supposedly unbiased media.) Advertising, on the other hand, isn't believable because everyone knows that it's a company's paid-for message. Ries & Ries further state that advertising has crossed over into the realm of "art" rather than remaining a form of communication. They point out that the yardstick by which ad agencies measure the success of their ad campaigns is the number of creative awards they win--not whether or not the ads actually sell products. On this, the authors are absolutely right. Ads (especially TV ads) don't sell anymore, they entertain. It's a waste of money for companies to advertise as much as they do. So, even though the authors overstate their case and repeat it incessantly, follow the advice of Ries & Ries and spend more money on PR!
on December 28, 2003
Al Ries (and Jack Trout at that time) created blockbusters classics books POSITIONING and MARKETING WARFARE.
I think Al Ries still wrote a great marketing book and this one is worth reading and thinkering.
PR creates branding, advertising defend the brand, hmmm. both are important.
The book is easy to read and hold a lot of truth. It is a bit "bitter" for the advertising people (and they will probably hate the book or play some other defences). But i agree that a lot of new advertising is more of an "ART" than a tool for better sales. I love Al Ries thinkering about whatever loses its functions will become an "art" ( think horse, paintings, even architectures etc) and that advertising is in the danger of losing its function (to make better sales) and becoming an "art" instead.
A lot of truth and things to think about and to learn from the book, even that it is very "opinionated".
I think this is one of the "have to read" for people in advertising, PR, marketing and even CEO.
on September 23, 2003
With a title like this, why would anyone in the advertising world want to read this book?
Two reasons. One, some clients are bound to and forewarned is forearmed. But better yet, many of the points the authors make can be easily refuted.
To start with, they have a marked propensity for the "assertion" school of argumentation, i.e. state one fact: Nissan ran a popular ad. State a second fact: Nissan's sales went down. Conclusion: The ad didn't increase sales. Did anyone say "post hoc ergo propter hoc"?
But, to be fair, they definitely do a good job of describing many of the flaws of the traditional ad agency model: its over-reliance on creativity for creativity's sake; its penchant for line extensions and its inability to build on ideas "not invented here". And they make a very good case for what is at the core of brand building, namely novelty. There's no question that new ideas, new names and new categories are what makes news.
However, some of the public relations triumphs they cite seem utterly disconnected from the day-to-day world of PR practice. The mere fact that Sony's Playstation ended up on the cover of Newsweek or that at one point in time there were more articles about Amazon than former president Clinton can't automatically be attributed to the efforts of some PR agent or surely the authors would have named him or her. On the contrary, both of these items were just newsworthy. Thus, the apocalyptic title of this book may be stretching it a bit.
But, in the end, this book does suggest a new definition of the role of mass advertising that should come as music to the industry's ears. What they maintain is that mass advertising's fundamental role is as insurance to protect a brand's established franchise. In other words, while it may take a host of things to establish a new brand, once that brand is established and begins to lose some of its novelty and newsworthiness it needs something-ads-to protect its position. This is an interesting observation and an important one to advertising agencies because it plays right into the natural tendency of clients (and businesspeople in general) to want to minimize risk. Positioning advertising as another tool in the risk-avoidance area, like interest rate swaps or commodity hedges, as opposed to as an imperfect tool for brand building might give advertising an entirely new saliency.
And who in the ad business doesn't want that?
on August 23, 2003
While there are some interesting points in this book -- obviously, the central being that too many marketing professionals ignore the brand-building power of positive PR -- what's good about the book is too often overshadowed by what's not-so-good: specifically, that the book revisits its premises again and again in such a way that they begin to sound desperate and that much of what the Rieses hypothesize is not backed by any sort of research.
Most disturbing is their habit of trashing prospective clients who apparently dared not to buy into their PR-based strategies. Relating how they suggested Guatemala change its name to Guatemaya to boost tourism (through more direct association with the Mayan ruins that constitute their biggest tourist attraction) tells you more about how realistically the Rieses approach solutions than anything else. What if the approach *hadn't* worked? And even if it had, it's hard to believe the resulting increase in tourism would have erased the cost of changing the country's name.
Also, they conveniently point out examples which tend to support their theories but ignore those that don't. They rail against line extensions, citing failures like Chevrolet's ill-fated Geo line, but say nothing about the success of extensions like Colgate Total, Diet Coke, or countless other revenue-boosting extensions. They praise the celebrity CEO, suggesting a CEO should spend 50% of his time (?!?) promoting a company via PR efforts, but fail to foresee the potential damage to the brand once that CEO becomes mired in his own bad PR (see: Martha Stewart). Also, anyone who's read Jim Collins's "Good to Great" knows a self-promoting, PR-hungry CEO is not necessarily the kind who leads a brand to dominance. Unlike the Rieses, Collins has the research to prove that.
It's not all bad. Certainly, their point about advertising agencies interested more in splashy creative that promotes the agency's interests as much -- if not moreso -- than the client's is well-taken. But for all the would-be clients they ridicule for not accepting the ideas they offered in their consultation, the Rieses never seem to quantify the success of a client who signed off on their strategy. In the end, they put forth an interesting hypothesis, but you have to wade through a lot of self-serving pitchmanship (and in a relatively slim volume at that) before getting there.
on August 13, 2003
I declare myself an Al Ries fan. I've read all his books. I've attended his seminars. His concepts have make my firm grow exponentially. However, I consider his association with his daugther a negative move. Why? Because she still lacks the experience, the stature and the conceptual framework to write books side to side to the guru. I totally buy the concept of "PR to launch brands, advertising to defend brands". It works!! (the concept was presented by the authors on their previous GREAT book: The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. The problem is The Fall of Adv. is not a well written book. It's obvious this book was written mainly by unexperienced Laura Ries (on Al Ries strong concepts, of course). I've studied the writting patterns. However I think this book is neccesary. You should read it. There are extremely valuable concepts burned into Laura's "not yet good enough" writting style. Advertising role must be updated. But be sure to read other Ries books before, so you get the story right. I hope their future books are much better written, so Ries concepts get the high quality delivery they deserve.
on July 21, 2003
I recall reading an article in HBR that questioned the efficacy of traditional advertising and the humongous marketing budgets that are allocated to it. Pick up the book "HBR on Brand Management" and indeed the first case study addresses this issue. It _is_ a very pertinent, timely and important question: how to allocate your budgets across the different forms of marketing touchpoints? And there's ample evidence to show how media other than advertising lead to the phenomenal success of products.
Carrie Bradshaw, the protagonist of the hot HBO show "Sex And The City" spends more than she can afford from her journalist salary on Hermes Birkin bags and the whole world sends the brand (a simple bag for god's sake) into a waiting list of not weeks, not months, but 3 years! Michael Moore decides that he doesn't have the budget to market his next fabrication ("Stupid White Men") so he cultivates a clever little following through the use of online channels. A "big3" US automotive manufacturer creates a frenzy for its new product launch through a kiosk placed in a popular spot at Disney World and with a clever unprecedented campaign. Prada launches a classic architectural marvel of a store in NY and then gets a zillion journalists to write about it in business magazines, NYT, fashion magazines, architectural publications etc.
The common theme underpinning the success of these initiatives is that these novel marketing ideas, or PR, are inherently credible because consumers KNOW that the product's endorsement does not come from its vendor but from "trusted" third-party mavens in the society. Advertising on the other hand suffers from an intrinsic bias of hawking one's wares.
That, to me, is the crux of this all-too-important argument and the one that Ries & Ries intended to veer their book around.
HOWEVER, I am sorry to say that their endeavour is a mediocre one at best as they try to wrap a blanket around the question and suggest that ONLY public relations is the cassandra call that marketers need to heed. Doesn't tickle my fancies, sorry. The truth is not black or white. If Sony gives up all advertising and relies ONLY on creative little PR ideas to do ALL its marketing, it is anyone's guess what will happen to it in the medium to long run. It smacks of intellectual dishonesty to cite examples of doozy advertising campaigns such as the one from pets.com -- and conveniently skipping the pitfalls of unsuccessful PR -- to grind their one-sided axe. Doesn't really help their case that PR is not really "this new marketing strategy", it has just been used creatively by the examples they impose on the readers.
But this logical fallacy aside, the book also disappoints against the litmus of purely a decent casual read. Several cliches line the text ("sky's the limit", "throw gasoline on fire"), as do unbelievable exaggerations ("Every brand that got to the top got there through PR" -- I dont think so, sorry).
For a much more succint yet compelling treatment of this subject, I recommend the first chapter of the book "HBR on Brand Management" which talks about media allocations. For the practice of PR in general, you'd be better off reading the much more balanced "The Practice of Public Relations" by Fraser Seitel.
What we have here is an absolutely brilliant essay which has been extended (but not fully developed) into a book. Other than a few exceptions such as the release of a new film or an announcement of deep-discount airline fares, I agree with the Rieses' comprehensive assertion that "You can launch new brands only with publicity or public relations (PR). PR allows you to tell your story indirectly through third-party outlets, primarily the media....Advertising should follow PR in both timing and theme. Advertising is a continuation of public relations by other means [a nice variation by the Rieses on one of von Clausewitz' core concepts] and should be started only after a PR program has run irs course. Furthermore, the theme of an advertising program should repeat the perceptions created in the mind of the prospect by the PR program."
I agree completely. Unfortunately, the Rieses make the essentially the same assertion over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again throughout their book. Long ago, I believe it was John Hill who said that public relations worthy of the name should be "truth well-told." Again, I completely agree. Perhaps PR's primary objective is merely to explain with information (exposition)...or to make vidid with compelling details (description)...or to explain a process or sequence with information (narration)...or to convince with logic and/or evidence (argumentation). If the primary objective of public relations is brand building, all four levels of discourse will probably be required. Of course the Rieses fully understand all this. Indeed, as you may recall, their core assertion is that effective public relations (NOT advertising) is essential to successful brand building. What they neglect to point out is that there are unlimited needs for "truth well-told," many of which have absolutely nothing to do with commerce.
This book is worth reading. Much of what the Rieses suggest is thought-provoking. The content is solid. The writing is serviceable, although constantly recycling the same ideas becomes is tedious and then irritating. (On several occasions, I exclaimed aloud "I got it! I got it! Enough already! Move on!" This book is by no means in the same league with Ries and Trout's Positioning, Levitt's The Marketing Imagination, Aaker's Building Strong Brands, and Harvard Business Review on Brand Management. Were it an essay, I would highly recommend it but as a book, (barely) Four Stars.
on June 21, 2003
PR and Advertising serve two distinct (though certainly related) purposes, and neither can single-handedly support a strong band indefinitely. What this book does is beat you over the head with an endless barrage of almost entirely unresearched examples of good PR, bad advertising, and bad business strategy in an effort to illustrate what it considers the death of advertising.
You could just as easily reverse the premise: that PR is dead and advertising is the all-powerful brand-building wonder tool. Neither point would be correct, and both would rely on this book's lack of research or objective analysis to survive 280 pages.
The tone is pompous and self-congratulatory, citing the author's ideas for PR campaigns that would have saved brands, companies, and even countries. In one passage, the authors suggest changing the name "Guatemala" to "Guatemaya" to promote tourism. Their evidence that the suggestion would have been effective?
"Our Guatemaya idea was well-received among the business community in Guatemala City."
Wow. Really? And to think the Guatemalan government didn't fall right in line.
That's just one example. Don't expect any more evidence, insight, or research than that. Having strung so many silly examples together to make such sweeping generalizations, this book reflects
A) An inadequate understanding of marketing, advertising, and PR,
B) A desire to make a point rather than investigate and illustrate one, or
C) all of the above.
On the upside, though, it does have a great looking cover. Save your money.
on June 10, 2003
I bought this book since I have been working in many different aspects of both PR and advertising over a decade. From the cover and a quick browse, I was sure it was going to be a much better read. Instead, I found it is poorly researched, abundant in silly comparisons and contradictions.
The more I read into the book, the more the repetitions and the poorly thought "facts" that are repeated every few pages annoyed me. There is no research, no charts, no graphics or comparisons with hard numbers and sources proving the sole hypothesis of the book. The concepts presented here don't take into account market and social forces, such as economics, mismanagement, different values and moral standards, etc. Instead we get the simplistic and poorly supported argument "Advertising doesn't work, PR does" about a hundred times.
The truth is, both advertising and PR are valuable tools in building a brand, but neither advertising nor PR will save a poorly managed company nor make a poorly designed product a class leader. However, the book chooses to omit this fact and focuses entirely on PR as a company saving measure that can be minimally supported by advertising. Of course, it ignores the fact that these days PR has about as much credibility as advertising.
I don't believe this book will not stand the test of time, as even now some of its concepts have been proven wrong. But if you take this book as an example of how to get a PR message out, it is invaluable: witness all the four and five star reviews this book is generating, mostly on the basis of its author's reputation. Ironically, the content of the book strikes me more as an advertisement for PR than as a PR exercise.