Are Ad Agencies on Course to Become PR Agencies?

image Technology has brought about a great deal of convergence in not just formerly disparate areas of technology, but also formerly disparate disciplines of art, science and business.  The many interesting conversations I got a chance to be a party to at SxSWi this year showed me nothing else if not that.

One of the first panels I attended was the panel on how the Minority Report was becoming reality, and I think that sort of became my lense for the remainder of the event.  That panel talked about the convergence of humanity and technology.  One of the immersive augmented reality programs became a foil for conversation on a panel I was later on with musician Peter Himmelman, when we talked about ways that he could perform live via the internet, yet still have a personal, live and two way feeling of connection with his viewers while he performed.

Something that I think I’ve seen coming for a while but first saw evidence of during SxSW was the convergence of PR and advertising.  When I started putting together my personal sponsorship packages for SxSW, I described the services not just as a link and a graphic on my website to your site, but me acting as a bit of PR and consultant for those that gave me sponsorship. 

I ran into Ernie Mosteller, a veep at Brunner Digital (an advertising agency), and the mode he was running in at SxSW perfectly mirrored what I was doing, and here he was working for major name clients like Zippo, the Art Institute, Tums and CES.

(Download the MP4 here)

The project they launched at SxSW, SmarterFaster, was used to chronicle this fusion of advertising, consulting and PR at SxSW, but continues as they try to merge the worlds of technical and creative work.

Brunner sent seven folks out to SxSW, and they all chronicled their experiences and discoveries there at the site as part of an ongoing conversation with their co-workers and clients and readers to further an understanding of the mechanics of marketing, advertising and existing as corporations in a social media world.

One of the topics we talked about in our podcast, Ernie touched on in one of his videos posted at SmarterFaster, which was some of the concepts of transparency that Tony Hsieh of Zappos talked about. The Brunner agency not only worked that convergence concept with their SmarterFaster blog, but were taking those ideas back to their clients.

While Ernie and Brunner (and I) are on the cutting edge here by routinely mixing these sorts of consulting activities to major clients, it’s something that’s quickly spreading not as a meme or fad, but as a natural evolution of corporate existence in the new media ecosphere.