FINALLY...someone said it!

Thank you Tom Hespos...

"Friday, June 7, 2002
What is Integration?
By Tom Hespos

A few years ago, the concept of integrated communications began to get really hot, especially as it pertained to the relationship between an ad agency and its clients. As the concept of integration became more popular, we began to see quite a few agencies tout integration as a major selling point. But what does it mean to be truly integrated?

Quite a few marketers buy into the concept of integration. To clients, a major benefit of integration is the idea that one agency can handle all aspects of marketing communications. This is beneficial for several reasons:


Communications are guided by one organization that stewards the brand - Dealing with one agency means that any communications programs recommended by that agency are the result of one overarching strategy. By using only one agency, a client can be assured that anything recommended by that agency is going to support a larger initiative in a consistent fashion.
Clients like simplified processes - As a client, which would you rather do? Brief one agency on your business and communications objectives or worry that a combination of two or three agencies won't be able to cooperate to develop a cohesive communications program? Ensuring that multiple agencies work together in a constructive way can be a nightmare.
Integrated agencies are more efficient - Especially when smaller pieces of business are concerned, it's often less expensive to keep the entire business at one shop than to split the business up among several agencies. Integration realizes efficiencies.
But just like many other hot concepts and buzzwords in our industry, the notion of integration has strayed somewhat from its original meaning. Some agencies claim they are integrated when they outsource entire pieces of business. How can an agency be integrated when it outsources?

The truth is, it can't. Integration is all about the elimination of seams. Seams are a bad thing in this industry. Wherever a seam exists, so does the potential for tactical recommendations that stray from the core strategy. A few weeks ago, I described the game of telephone in this column. The comical results of a game of telephone are produced by communication breakdown at the seams (i.e � one person passing information to another). To produce the most accurate and consistent messages, clients must ensure that there are as few seams as possible. It's not enough to ensure that the overarching strategy feeds all aspects of marketing communications. One also has to be sure that the various contributors to a communications campaign don't interpret that strategy in different ways.

To communicate a message to a target, three basic questions have to be answered:


What is the message and how will it support a client's business objectives?< /I> The account planning and account management practices at an agency are the groups typically responsible for answering this question.

What channels will be leveraged to disseminate the message? An agency media department is the chief contributor here.

How is the message expressed? This is where the creative department makes its contribution.

Typically, integration starts to unravel when multiple channels of communication are involved. Once a strategy is crafted, an agency might disseminate it to several groups. A traditional media planning group might make a recommendation for TV, radio, print or outdoor. An interactive media group might recommend web advertising or e-mail. Yet another group might recommend wireless tactics or interactive TV. These groups are competing against one another for a budget. They might be groups within a larger agency (with or without separate P&Ls) or separate business entities altogether. And sometimes the determination of who gets the lion's share of the budget doesn't necessarily come from an unbiased view of which media vehicles best support the client's brand, strategy and message. Traditional media groups often emphasize television because TV makes the most money for the agency. Interactive groups get a smaller slice of the budget because producing interactive ads is significantly less profitable than producing TV commercials. Wireless and iTV might not get an allocation at all because they present less of a profit opportunity than interactive ads.

Integration entails an unbiased look at all avenues open to a client, set apart from profit motives and free of pushback from an agency with less-than-comprehensive capabilities. Truly integrated agencies develop a strategy and then leverage the most appropriate channels for the tasks at hand.

A great way to minimize the number of seams is to hire an agency that employs generalists � people who are well-rounded with respect to experience with various media vehicles. These people will work to reach a target where the target lives and won't recommend a 90% spend in television when the target spends 40% of their time online or 30% of their weekly media consumption with outdoor ads during their commute to work.

How can an agency become integrated? Not only does it have to work to minimize the number of seams in its business, but it also has to work to eliminate biases by prioritizing the client's best interests above its own profit motives."

Thank you, Tom!!

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by Steve Hall    Jun-14-02   Click to Comment   
  

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