All advertising agencies say they offer integrated marketing--they would be foolish to say they don't.
It's not a new thing to work cross-media or to ensure consistent messaging from one medium to another, but more recently integration has started to take on more complex meanings. The lines between direct marketing and branding are getting blurrier, as are the lines between branding and entertainment.
One line that is not getting blurrier, however, is the bottom line. As agencies, we are finding ourselves more and more involved in the intricate, strategic business goals of our clients.
We have to be at the 30,000-foot level and on the ground at the same time. We're in the business of ideas but also in the business of business.
For this reason, the most crucial part of integration is the involvement from the very top. When integration is happening really well, it is because the senior management of an agency is driving it and paving the way for everyone else.
From the structural to the executional, the following are five ways agency management can ensure they are prepared to offer true integration to their clients:
One Profit Center
If you really want to make sure you're not integrated, create a separate interactive division and give it its own P&L.
The idea of making the interactive department its own profit center is a remnant of the dot-com days of endless clients, new technologies and huge upside potential.
As that dream fades, so too must the idea of a division of an ad agency having its own profits and losses. This sets the wrong image, both internally and externally, for what is important to the client. It says that an agency doesn't trust the integrated process--that it may very well cut it off, should it not reach a certain revenue goal.
The integrated staff should grow organically with the needs and goals of an agency's clients. We cannot be in the business of trying to force work on clients that they don't want, or don't need. Creating one profit center ensures the actual integration of teams and ideas.
Break Down the Walls
The agency within an agency model is difficult, at best. The idea of divisions is antithetical to an integrated system--you simply cannot divide and integrate at the same time.
Perhaps best of all, though, is that everyone feels equally important and as integral a part of the process as everyone else. Without this kind of collaborative environment, there is no fertile ground for integration to occur.
I've often said that half of integration is airfare. Many agencies underestimate how important it is to bring along a representative from all the major disciplines, including media, direct and interactive. It is, all at once, a show of solidarity to the client and insurance that cross-media concepting will occur.
It's a group race, not a relay. From chemistry meetings to pitches and from creative briefs to presentations, all disciplines need to be involved and contributing every step of the way.
And it happens on the non-bolded days, too: in focus groups, status meetings and management meetings. It even happens in hallways and emails. It is a desire to involve all interested parties. To not just believe that good ideas can come from anywhere--but to make sure they do.
Focus on Business Solutions
Now that you've got your own business structure and processes ready to produce integrated work for your clients, it's time to focus on the clients themselves: getting intimate with your client's business, probing for insights into customer behaviors and keeping tabs on the competition.
There are a multitude of business goals that any given company has to achieve and many of them can be tackled using multiple media channels. For each client, an agency must determine what is the best mix and how they will measure success. Of course, the trick is knowing a client's business well enough and having big enough brains to come up with solutions that move the needle.
Being a well-integrated agency won't make it any easier to come up with great ideas. In fact, it'll make it harder. But it should. Our clients' problems are harder, too.
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