The Ad Launch: Context, Reputation and Authenticity Key to PR’s Role

Last week, the online portion of CDW’s “People Who Get IT” ad campaign went live, bringing to fruition months of planning and strategy sessions involving CDW’s marketing and communications teams, ad agency Ogilvy & Mather and its communications arm, Ogilvy PR.

For Gary Ross, director of corporate communications at CDW, the campaign is a culmination of close collaboration with a number of groups, both internal and external. “We’re all part of what we call ‘communications and brand management,’ and all the core campaign work at CDW happens in that group,” he says. “We work side-by-side with advertising, creative and design colleagues within CDW, and with our outside agencies.

To demonstrate how marketing, advertising and communications work together in an ad campaign launch, agency of record Ogilvy PR and CDW gave PR News an inside look at the strategic planning process, pre-launch preparations and launch components.

Early 2010: Strategy

It all begins with a business objective, says Ross. For years CDW was known as a tech product provider. But the company has been developing strong capabilities in technology services and solutions. “We found that people didn’t know what we do,” he says. “The idea was to create a campaign to showcase not only our traditional strength, but to show the full range of solutions we can provide to a business.”

Key to the planning was the relationship that CDW has with Ogilvy PR, says Suzanne O’Leary Lopez, executive VP and corporate practice director at Ogilvy PR in Chicago. “We’ve been working with CDW for four years, and we’re comfortable working with Gary and the rest of the CDW team.”

Making collaboration even smoother, says Lopez, is the fact that O&M advertising would be working on the campaign creative. “They’re right down the hall,” she says.

As all of the parties planned the core campaign, CDW’s wealth of customer stories came to the forefront. One high-profile customer engagement stood out: the work CDW completed at the new Cowboys Stadium in North Texas, the site of Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6, 2011.

Pre-Launch: Week of Jan. 3, 2011

â–¶ Internal Communications: CDW ran internal “teasers” on LCD screens in all major CDW locations to get employees excited about the upcoming launch of the “People Who Get IT” campaign. “Internal comms has always been front and center with us,” says Ross. “How could we leverage this campaign to get excitement going internally, too?”

â–¶ External PR: Identified opportunities to promote the Cowboys case study, using a two-pronged approach:

• Host a press conference Feb. 2 at Cowboys Stadium during Super Bowl “Media Day” with a CDW solutions architect and Cowboys chief information officer Pete Walsh.

• Conduct satellite and radio media tours the day after the press conference.

â–¶ Advertising/Marketing/PR: Ogilvy PR worked strategically with O&M to develop campaign launch priorities and timing to maximize awareness of the campaign among CDW’s audience of IT decision makers.

To capture CDW’s work on Cowboys Stadium, O&M prepared to conduct a video shoot at Cowboys Stadium, with participants from the Cowboys organization telling the story of CDW’s involvement firsthand.

Week of Jan. 10

â–¶ External PR: Drafted all campaign-related materials for launch, including the press release, pitch materials and talking points; and finalized SMT/RMT date, time, studio location and spokesperson.

â–¶ Advertising/Marketing/PR: Conducted day-long video shoot at Cowboys Stadium, including interviews with Cowboys personnel and CDW solution architects involved in the project to be used as collateral during launch.

Week of Jan. 17

â–¶ Internal Comms: CDW launches its “internal manifesto” video, designed to be an inspirational internal reflection of the spirit of the campaign.

â–¶ External PR: Ogilvy PR and worked to approve all campaign-related materials for launch, including the campaign press release, pitch materials and talking points.

â–¶ Advertising/Marketing/PR: O&M filled the landing page templates at with campaign content in preparation for the launch on Jan. 24; Ogilvy PR and O&M worked to finalize a digital strategy, including a conversation map for Twitter.

Week of Jan. 24

â–¶ External PR: Ogilvy PR distributed the People Who Get IT press release and conducted daily media outreach. Ogilvy PR also worked with the NFL to finalize the logistics of the Media Day press conference.

â–¶ Advertising/Marketing/PR: PR helped give the creative assets additional exposure throughout the news cycle. Ogilvy PR worked with CDW to push out content in the social media conversation calendar to drive traffic to campaign Web site, Online ads go live in outlets such as PC World, ARS Technica, CBSi and CNET. O&M advertising monitors ad metrics. “For me, I’ve got to see people online talking about CDW,” says Charles Brandl, account supervisor at O&M. Thus, O&M will continue to test ad responses throughout the campaign.

Week of Jan. 31

â–¶ Internal Comms: CDW will distribute talking points to its sales force to share information about the campaign with customers.

â–¶ External PR: Ogilvy PR will conduct a media coaching session with CDW and Cowboys spokespeople.

â–¶ Advertising/Marketing/PR: The Cowboys Stadium video case study will go live at Print ads will run in The Wall Street Journal on Jan. 31. Broadcast spots will begin airing on a number outlets.

PR’s role in an ad launch, says Ross, is about adding authenticity and reputational rigor to the ad messages. In these two respects, PR becomes a key component in the development and execution of an ad campaign. PRN

Launching an Ad Campaign: Collaboration, Protocols Are Key

In working with client CDW and sister ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, Ogilvy PR’s Suzanne O’Leary Lopez knows a thing or two about successful integration of PR and advertising. Here are some tips on how to achieve just that:

1. The best idea should lead the campaign. That’s why all functions, including PR, should have a seat at the planning table. “When everyone is involved, the best idea will emerge,” says O’Leary Lopez. “Without full integration, that often won’t happen.”

2. Collaborate, collaborate. Easier said than done, says O’Leary Lopez. For CDW’s People Who Get IT campaign, Ogilvy & Mather advertising, Ogilvy PR and CDW’s internal and external comms teams were joined at the conference table.

3. Develop a rigorous protocol. Create a master timeline, and make sure you’re tracking toward it. “People can go off on old tangents,” says O’Leary Lopez.

4. Don’t let ads dominate. Regularly demonstrate how PR can fit into marketing mix—enforcing reputation, shaping the business story contextually and creating a viral effect.

5. Demonstrate ROI. PR is one of the most cost-effective ways to lift brand reputation during a campaign, says O’Leary Lopez. “You need to show this via the right measurement tools,” she adds.


Gary Ross,; Suzanne O’Leary Lopez,; Charles Brandl,