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The Next Chapter in the ‘PR vs. Marketing vs. Advertising’ Debate Is Here

Obvious statement of the day: the debate over who “owns” content marketing, native/paid media and social will only heat up in the months and years to come as agencies fight (politely) for clients’ money. But the latest chapter in this timeless face-off appears to be unfolding in record time.

First comes news that big-name ad agency McCann Erickson will significantly expand upon a unit it founded last year to exclusively tackle social media projects. The unit, now called “McCann Always On” (get it?), will “[build] social media-centric marketing plans” rather than just managing clients’ pages and feeds in an attempt to back up the agency’s “sure, we can do that!” claims.

This announcement follows a telling New York Times article by advertising specialist Stuart Elliot, who reported that a growing number of ad/marketing copywriters have mastered the subtle art of “LOLspeak” as their agencies integrate more social content into client campaigns.

On the PR side, Weber Shandwick just announced its plans to expand upon the traditional definition of a PR firm by launching a new content-focused unit called MediaCo.

The new unit’s responsibilities will include native advertising/content creation and digital media purchases. The move will require Weber to hire more writers, brand specialists and editorial directors — they’ve already started bringing in new talent from traditional media companies like Hearst. The firm’s exec-VP of content calls the shift part of a “long evolution” in responding to clients’ demands for more content marketing services.

Of course, Edelman recently hinted at the very same sort of evolution by reconsidering its longstanding opposition to paid content, hiring Mindshare vet Cassel Kroll to handle media buying duties and creating a new “global chair of creative strategy” position to get more aggressive about the role it plays in content creation.

Chris Perry, Weber Shandwick’s global head of digital, tells AdAge that “It will be a challenge for clients to decide where this fits in with their budgets.”

Indeed it will. Let the games continue to begin.

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