Ah, 2018. The year of Bud Light “Victory Fridges” and witty KFC apologies for chicken shortages. The year was full of creative PR campaigns by both national and global companies and brands seeking to advocate socially-conscious ideals, pay homage to pop culture and simply defy conventionalism. With the expansion of possibilities thanks to advancements in the digital and social landscapes, 2019 promises to hold some of the most innovative PR statements to date. But before we dive into the new year completely, here’s a quick recap of some of the 2018 PR moments that made our board members’ hearts pound and heads spin:
Nike | Dream Crazy
“I loved Nike’s “Dream Crazy.” Agencies and clients need to start combining profit with purpose. When you look at millennials and Gen Z’s the expectation of organizational structures is different from that of their predecessors. Nike at a fundamental level, merged both profit and purpose beautifully while making a stand against a cluttered and competitive landscape. Nike has always been a disruptor because they attack things differently. And at the end of the day, you want people to be thinking and talking about your brand differently. This campaign didn’t feel super contrived or exploitative. It was in alignment with who Nike is, what they do and what they believe.”
-Meredith Klein, PRSA Pittsburgh Immediate Past President
Taco Bell | A Glimpse Into The Future Of Taco Bell (Inspired By Demolition Man)
Taco Bell marked the 25th anniversary of the movie Demolition Man, and the return of nacho fries, by recreating the futuristic restaurant from the movie in San Diego. When you walked in, it was a fully immersive “2032” movie experience. They served a four-course meal including the nacho fries as a stand-alone dish. It was really over the top. This effort scored tons of media and influencer coverage, flooding my phone all the way out here in the ‘Burgh. It’s also just a glimpse of the continuous media making Taco Bell is doing. They’re always thinking of something newsworthy and intriguing as heck.
-Ben Butler, PRSA Pittsburgh President
Nike | Dream Crazy
“My favorite PR campaign over the last year has to be Nike’s “Dream Crazy” campaign, not because of Kaepernick, but because what it represented for the communications industry. Here was an ad campaign that was driven not by the CMO, but by the Chief Communications Officer. This was the most expensive sign yet of the increasingly important role that communications, not marketing, professionals are playing in operational decisions of some of the largest brands. Like Patagonia or Starbucks before them, Nike put a stake down and said this is what we believe. And the fact that it helped drive sales for them too will only help other brands take that scary first step of actually saying something meaningful instead of hiding behind corporate buzzwords that don’t mean anything to anyone.”
-Steve Radick, PRSA Pittsburgh Vice President
MGM Resorts | Universal Love
“While admittedly a fan of KFC’s humor, my favorite campaign in 2018 was MGM Resorts’ “Universal Love.” 2018 was a year in which the LGBT community dominated headlines. We welcomed the first openly gay U.S. Governor, saw the biggest year in LGBT-inclusive film and continued the fight for same-sex marriage. MGM Resorts realized their influence in a city known as a destination for weddings and honeymoons and took that as an opportunity to appeal to a community so often marginalized in regards to that civil right. By changing the pronouns in traditional wedding songs, an action so small, they created a hugely positive reaction. It demonstrated that our best ideas don’t always have to be overly complex if the sincerity is there and the story and execution are done right. Inclusivity, inspiration and timely brand activism at its best.”
-Ashley Jones, PRSA Web Content Manager
Palessi | A Social Experiment by Payless
My favorite PR moment of 2018 was definitely from Payless. While I don’t think influencer marketing is something to brush off – 81 percent of consumers are known to frequently buy the items they’ve seen being shared on social media – this campaign brought it to a new light, at a time where people are calling out influencers for being too staged to get likes and money, rather than sharing their true thoughts and images. Payless’ fake pop-up store “Palessi” tricked influencers into thinking $30 Payless shoes were really high-end footwear that could go for upwards of $640 a pop. Their reactions were priceless! Not only did it create massive buzz for the struggling retailer, but it hit home on their message that you can wear affordable shoes that still look great. My takeaway: As we move further into influencer marketing in 2019, trust and authenticity are more important than ever, and having a large following is no longer enough.
-Deanna Tomaselli, PRSA Public Service Co-Chair
With growing social media capabilities, the ongoing evolution of AI and VI, and the “push the boundaries” mindset that more PR professionals and agencies are adopting, we look forward to 2019 as a year to learn what we don’t know, persist with what we do and to always challenge ourselves and our colleagues to be exceptional.
See below for a shameless plug!
Kick off 2019 with the first PRSA Pittsburgh event of the year: the 2019 Renaissance Awards!
Come celebrate the best in public relations work in the Pittsburgh region on Thursday, Jan. 31, at the Heinz History Center for this premiere PR event. To register, click here.