The guys at Bite Communications have a theory. They say that, after a huge year of national events, there’s nothing on the agenda for 2013. It’s set to be an empty year. And that this is either a huge challenge or a creative opportunity for brands, depending on how you look at it.
But I don’t agree. For me, referring to 2013 as an empty year is a misnomer. I get the thought process, really I do. A ten year jubilee coinciding with the first Olympic Games in the UK for 64 years was always going to create a huge media and marketing communications frenzy. It’s only natural that every brand and his dog wanted a part of it. But I’d argue that those who have relied on these events to inform their strategy this year have dropped the ball. Hardly any brands have managed to create cut-through and it’s largely been white noise from a marketing perspective. That’s an awful lot of wasted marketing budget.
I know at BOTTLE we’re not all laying back in our sun loungers sipping gin and tonics now that the Olympics are out of the way. And that’s not just because it’s rained pretty much continuously in Oxfordshire this month. It’s because life in a PR and communications agency goes on whether or not there’s a major sporting or cultural event happening. We’ve implemented minimal Olympic, Euro 2012 or Jubilee-themed activity for our clients this year. Does that mark us down as slow on the uptake or out of touch with the media agenda? Far from it. It marks us down as an agency that wasn’t prepared to contribute to the media scrum or try and compete with the multi-million dollar campaigns of the major sponsors. Instead we’ve focused on our client’s core business propositions and what will truly benefit them.
In fact, I’d say that if anything, these events have been more of a hindrance than anything else. I know that’s a bold statement, but a summer like we’ve had has muddied the waters when it comes to PR. The same is true, if to a lesser extent, of social media. The pressure to fill Facebook pages and Twitter profiles with content about Olympic glory has been, at times, almost tangible.
The Exception to the Rule
I think there are two things to remember about 2012. First, this year has been the exception to the rule, not the rule. Rather than 2013 being empty, it’s more a case of 2012 was jammed full. Nothing of note was planned for 2009, but we didn’t fall on our swords because we didn’t have a news agenda to piggyback. So 2013 is hardly unprecedented.
And second, to say that 2013 is empty because there’s no major UK event is to take a very insular view. The social web has opened up the world like never before, to the point where global events happening on other continents are now, arguably, becoming as important from a communications perspective as national ones. We may be an island, but let’s not fall into the trap of thinking as though we’re deserted on it.
Our job as marketers and communications professionals is to tell stories around our brands and organisations. In 2013, we have to focus on creating our own engaging and fresh stories, rather than desperately trying to become a bit part in someone else’s. Next year will be owned by those brands and companies that have spent the last 18 months building affinity and relationships with their customers, not those who’ve relied on stunts and gimmicks to a splash of cheap publicity.
A version of this article was originally featured on the #Empty13 website along with many more from leading lights in the UK communications industry.
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