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Industry Overview
Advertising and public relations are like a microwave and a freezer: totally different, but they work together really well. In fact, many large advertising agencies offer PR services. Both industries deliver words and pictures, but what they really sell is intangibles, such as image and reputation. They are paid to persuade people to buy goods or services, to vote for a political cause or candidate, or to invest in a company.

In broad terms, an advertising agency is a marketing consultant. It helps the client (e.g., a manufacturer of consumer products or a service-oriented company) with all aspects of its marketing efforts—everything from strategy to concept to execution. Strategy involves helping the client make high-level business decisions, like what new products the client should develop or how the client should define or brand itself to the world. Concept is where the agency takes the client’s strategy and turns it into specific ideas for advertisements—such as a series of ads featuring extreme athletes for a soft-drink maker whose strategy is to make inroads in the teen market. Execution is where the agency turns the concept into reality with the production of the actual ads: the print layout, the film shoot, the audio taping. Full-service agencies also handle the placement of the ads in newspapers, magazines, radio, and so on—so that they reach their intended audience.

But that’s only a strict definition of what people in advertising do. In broader terms, the industry includes everything from PR agencies (which try to place news items about clients in the media) to direct marketers (who send out all that annoying junk mail) to Internet advertising and design firms (which create pop-up or banner ads or design websites for clients).

PR firms, on the other hand, generally try to persuade media to publicize their messages as news. When they represent truly newsworthy clients, such as political candidates, getting publicity is easy, and the challenge is to put their client's spin on how a news item is presented in the media. When the client is less newsworthy, such as a company that wants publicity for its products without buying an ad, the job is more difficult. PR professionals write creative, and sometimes not so creative, press releases that dress up company messages as topical news, in the hope that it will be run as such on the front page or reported at the beginning of the evening news on television.

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