This adage – advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for – was coined by Helen Woodward, the first female advertising executive in the U.S. back in 1938. She was comparing paid media placements – what we call today branded articles or advertising – with PR/communications, which is earned media such as publishing thought leadership articles in trade publications.
With earned media, we have earned a place for our client’s articles in trade publications by providing high-quality information for readers. We’ve discussed this issue and this comparison before in other blogs.
With paid media, as this implies, we have paid for that placement. While paid media certainly can be effective, it is costly and it lacks the credibility of an earned media placement.
I rarely bring up this adage because I believe in the value of industry trade publications and realize as well that they depend totally on advertising to exist. A recent example, however, proves we cannot deny the truth of this statement.
I am referring to the introduction of Tesla’s Cybertruck.
The founder of the company, Elon Musk, introduced the truck, which is made of stainless steel alloy and metal glass. So tough and durable are the body and the glass of the truck that it can withstand bullets and sledgehammers.
Well, the introduction of the vehicle was not a smashing success – or maybe it was. During the big reveal, Tesla’s head of design, Franz von Holzhausen, threw a metal ball at the front left window before an audience that included dozens of reporters. The window smashed. Embarrassed, all Musk could say was, “There is room for improvement.”
Tesla stock fell by more than 6 percent shortly after the presentation. But here’s where our adage comes into play. Musk reported that within 48 hours of the awkward demonstration, Tesla received nearly 150,000 orders for the Cybertruck.
It looks like Woodward was right. Publicity, good or bad, can really pay off.