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Do PR Pros Need to be Moneyballers?

This is a post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.

The mega merger announced by Publicis and Omnicom last month is a big deal for a number of reasons.

One of the key messages that arose from the merger chatter is that Big Data itself is a Big Deal.

Entrepreneur saw the move as a way for the two firms to “be better equipped to participate in an industry that’s quickly become dominated by data analysis and automated ad buying.”

While others might argue that this mega merger isn’t the best or only way to equip oneself, no one would disagree that

“Advertisers now have the ability to deliver highly targeted ads to individuals over the Internet, using a trove of data collected about that person’s location, likes, age, gender and shopping preferences.”

And, that, therefore, has established a new paradigm of players in marketing: “All of that means the new giants in the field – and a competitive threat to Omnicom and Publicis – are those with plenty of user data: Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter and even and Adobe Systems.”

Patrick Morrissey at DataSift, a big data platform for social businesses, sees the Publicis/Omnicom deal as recognition of Big Data’s importance and a harbinger of changes to come in the advertising world. He predicts that agencies will double down on social data, they will get into the software game and the analyst/engineer will become the new AE.

It seems everyone from the largest advertising firms in the world to niche independent players is trying to convince clients and shareholders that they can establish a winning business model around data and social platforms.

As Phil Johnson, CEO of PJA Advertising+Marketing said to AdAge:

“Clients want agile agencies with an entrepreneurial spirit that can move fast and respond to change in real time. Small agencies have been selling this point hard for years. On the other hand, large brands also want global agencies that can reach every corner of the world, harness the power of new digital technologies, create every imaginable form of content, ride the wave of mobile advertising and tame the black box of media-buying algorithms… To be effective, we all need to make peace with that contradiction between agility and global scale.”

What does this mean for PR firms? Do PR pros need to be moneyballers skilled in the use of sabermetrics?

Not so fast, says Todd Defren who wrote on SHIFT’s blog:

Make no mistake, this merger was about Advertising, Technology and Media Buying more so than Public Relations. Even though the workaday practice of being successful in Social Media (e.g., community management, social customer service) belongs squarely in the PR camp, the Big Money is still to be made in the Paid Media arena.  There are a great many superb PR pros in those conglomerates, but they will always play second fiddle to the paid media masters of the universe.

And, Marketo’s Jon Miller is adamant that Data needs Creative just as Creative needs Data.

What impact do you think this merger will have on the PR industry? Will Big Data play a role in PR? What would it look like if you merged a traditional PR program with data analytics?

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on You can find her at Learn more about Alison Kenney.


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