The PR Campaigns of the Decade
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The PR Campaigns of the Decade

Five campaigns stood out as candidates for our Public Relations Campaign of the Decade award, campaigns that demonstrated the impressive breadth and depth of the work in our profession; the strategic thinking and the creativity that help clients cut through the communications clutter.

Paul Holmes

Five campaigns stood out as candidates for our Public Relations Campaign of the Decade award, campaigns that demonstrated the impressive breadth and depth of the work in our profession; the strategic thinking and the creativity that help clients cut through the communications clutter that defined the first 10 years of the 21st century and capture the public’s imagination..

 

Our first-ever Lifetime Achievement SABRE trophy was presented to apparel retailer Liz Claiborne and its public relations agency Patrice Tanaka & Company (now part of CRT/tanaka) in 2002, for their long-running Women’s Work campaign, one of the most impressive cause-related marketing programs of all time. The campaign was distinguished first by the company’s choice of a tough, sometimes controversial issue—domestic violence—as its centerpiece, a choice that enabled Liz Claiborne to “own” the issue and position itself as a leader; and later by an unusually deep and sustained commitment that included employee volunteerism, fund-raising and educational components. Equally impressive was the ability of the PR team, including Tanaka’s firm and more recently Ruder Finn, to keep the campaign fresh and interesting to generate media interest.

 

Giant oil company Shell partnered with the U.S. Army and the National Wildlife Agency, supported by Denver-based public relations firm MGA Communications, on a communications campaign that spanned not one but two decades as the three organizations worked to clean up the former Rocky Mountain Arsenal and ultimately turn one of the most polluted Superfund sites in the country into a wildlife preserve and tourist attraction. Community engagement was a vital part of the clean-up process, and the communications team demonstrated impressive patience, rare empathy, and an endless willingness to listen as it reached out to local residents and built consensus around the massive clean-up effort. The campaign earned a Lifetime Achievement SABRE in 2004, and continues today.

 

The National Heart Lung & Blood Institute, supported by Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide with its formidable social marketing capabilities, won a SABRE for The Heart Truth campaign and its introduction and creation of the Red Dress icon, which became a social phenomenon, persuading celebrities, politicians and business women across America to don red dresses in an attempt to draw attention to the risk of heart disease—the number one killer of women—and create a national movement for improved female heart health. The American Heart Association, supported by Boston-based cause marketing specialist Cone, won a SABRE for the Go Red for Women campaign.
 

In the wake of the worst natural disaster to hit America in many years, several technology and telecommunications companies—SBC Communications, Yahoo! and Cingular Wireless among them—came together to demonstrate that the private sector can sometimes step in and pick up the slack from and under-resourced and badly-managed public sector, providing goods and services and volunteer support to aid those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Their efforts, supported by international public relations agency Fleishman-Hillard, earned a Platinum SABRE Award for their best public relations campaign of 2005.

 

The use of digital and social media, the enlistment of consumers as brand advocates, even the employment of user-generated content have become relatively commonplace over the past couple of years, but they were fresh and exciting and new when Ketchum partnered with client Frito-Lay to encourage loyal customers to create a SuperBowl ad for the popular Doritos brand. The campaign generated an amazing number of entries, including an extremely professional winner, and generated amazing buzz online and off that went far beyond the value of the ad itself. It also cleaned up at various public relations awards competitions, including the Platinum SABRE for the best public relations campaign of 2007.

 

All of these campaigns were among the best of their kind, demonstrating the ability of public relations not only to contribute to important corporate objectives but also to facilitate positive social change. All of them were among the best in their respective disciplines, and made important contributions to the continuing development of the profession.

 

But the public relations campaign of the decade, because it served as a template and a benchmark for much of the most interesting and creative work that came after it, is the “Doritos Crashes the SuperBowl” campaign by Frito-Lay and Ketchum.

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