While agencies have long devised cross-selling opportunities for clients, the notion of integrated marketing communications really came into its own in the mid-1980s.

Back then Digital Equipment Corporation, for example, gathered representatives from its four major communications agencies in Stratford-on-Avon, England for a week and demanded they work together to create a single visual and message platform for the company that could be placed world-wide.

Two decades of business consolidation and big thinking followed, and the industry's idea of what integrated means has evolved accordingly. Sponsors have gone from making sure their can of Coke rather than a competitive can of Pepsi appeared as an on-screen prop, to BMW making its own films. Product placement has become “Advertainment.”

Public relations has been no less affected. Reviews created for, let's say PharmaX, are generated by supposedly independent companies that turn out to be owned by the agency that's handling the advertising for PharmaX. No surprise when the same positive PR ends up as the content in PharmaX's new ad campaign. Take two of these, and wag the dog in the morning.

More products are, in fact, wagging more programming.

To take a state-of-the-art look at the contemporary relationship between media and marketing, consider MTV. This enormously profitable arm of the VIACOM Empire has achieved a level of communications integration only dreamed about by most brand managers.

Here's how it works:

MTV hosts an event. It might be a concert, or rave, or beach bash. It invites the station's primary advertisers and others to join in as event sponsors. These sponsors are free to mention their participation in their own marketing, and MTV promotes them as well in its promotional efforts. At the event itself, the sponsors' wares—shoes, hats, bags, t-shirts, musical instruments, records, CDs, whatever—are handed out, sold and/or raffled off.

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Richard Roberts is a MARCOM consultant, copywriter and college professor in Boston. Visit RERoberts.com, or email: Richard@RERoberts.com