Integrating above and below the line is not just a case of folding up the image ads into an envelope and sending them off to a list of propects. As David Reed reports, agencies must look to data analysis techniques and ensure both disciplines

Integrating above and below the line has never been easy. Every time the below-the-line division of a marketing services group suggests integrating the approach to a client’s advertising, the same reaction from above-the-liners comes up. What does this have to do with us? Won’t we lose the brand qualities built up so painstakingly over years of advertising?

Such wariness may be justified. Enough agencies have lost money on the integrated concept to give anyone pause for thought – Lintas has been folded back into the main agency, Ammirati & Puris/Lintas, integrated shop Touch recently failed and the attempts of major agencies to develop the integration concept have disappeared without trace.

The reason for these failures and the fear many have of integration, according to those who have made it work, is that agencies have gone about it the wrong way.

Instead of tacking on a direct element to a creative campaign, it needs to be properly integrated. Frazer Gibney, director of integration at Collett Dickenson Pearce, says a brief needs to be “from the bottom up”. He believes campaigns must become data driven.

“The client’s database provides management information we can use to help develop brand advertising. It can help planners and creatives by adding colour and depth to the target audience when defining profiles,” he says.

A useful addition to this arm-oury of data, says Gibney, is the multimedia CD-Rom produced by CCN Marketing for its Mosaic product. It uses illustrations rather than text, making it easier to picture typical environments the data could be used in.

Reaching the stage where this data is actually valuable remains contentious. The reason so few integrated shops have succeeded is that the only real point of merger between the disciplines has been at board level.

At Saatchi & Saatchi, the barriers between brand and direct work have been taken down, claims Paul Snudden, director of integration.

While specialists in both disciplines continue to work within their areas, account teams work across the line and briefs are not taken on with an assumption of which media they will use.

“The first step is to generate one core creative idea, rather than decide where it will appear. We select the mix of communications routes to fulfil the objectives of the brief. It may be better fulfilled through a direct campaign, using direct re-sponse TV, direct mail and database marketing, or by a combination of TV, press, some direct and some on-pack,” he says.

Which media channel to use is a decision heavily guided by data. Snudden points to the Saatchi campaign for Walt Disney World, a 5m account and the first time the resort had advertised itself, rather than been promoted by travel agents.

The brief was to communicate the breadth of the resort’s offer, which a 30-, 60- or even 90-second commercial would struggle to achieve. Instead, a DRTV ad offered callers a 20-minute video to view in their own home.

From early response to the campaign, the agency was able to refine the media strategy to ensure the optimum coverage of the target mar-ket. Smart media buying has to make use of such data because, “at the margins, there are shifts in consumer behaviour that mean a client might still be spending the same amount on TV, but the value of each TVR is less. So you have got to look at ways to make the budget sweat”, says Snudden.

Achieving a common culture in which the merits of each approach and can be drawn on is the central challenge. Ian Harding, joint creative director of Impact FCA!, says: “Integration is not about having a couple of teams in the basement folding up the ad concept and putting it in an envelope. It is about using each discipline to deliver the campaign message in the most powerful way possible.”

From such an outlook, customer data, whether from an existing database or external sources, becomes a powerful resource because of the understanding it gives creatives about who they’re talking to. Harding says that traditional briefs boil the market information down to two letters in the corner of the brief – AB. But clients need to draw on that data to create real insight. Impact FCA!’s approach was to bring in consumers from the target group to discuss the product in the company of the client and creatives.

Direct marketing has long been accustomed to drawing on data to make decisions about what works. But often this process has been based on nothing more than analysing response data, rather than trying to understand why certain market segments respond well to a particular type of appeal and not another. “Why not use it to talk in the right language about what interests them, and turn it onto the whole creative image,” asks Andrew Greenyer, director of analytical services for The Database Group.

Greenyer’s company has been working with a major financial services provider. It traditionally uses a two-stage marketing campaign, with the first stage offering an incentive for responding. To establish a communications programme segmented according to the target customer’s type, the client must first analyse its customer base and match it against enquirers – ex-customers and new ones. The next stage is to overlay this with geodemographic, lifestyle and credit information.

“They are gearing it to whatever the customer is looking for. If it’s a high-ticket item, they may offer a book. If it is going to Mirror or Sun readers looking for a regular savings product, they may do a football-oriented incentive. They have turned around the selection tool to define the whole approach – the creative, proposition and incentive,” says Greenyer.

But such specific use of data to decide the campaign brief is rare. “Ad agencies don’t come to us,” says Greg Bradford, managing director of CACI. “It comes down to how backwards they are in targeting. They just don’t use something as basic and productised as Acorn.”

Even where response analysis is carried out, Bradford believes the questions asked often fall short of what could be learned. “In some cases, the client does something and gets a poor response and wants to know why. Was it the wrong people, was the offer unattractive, or was the creative not attractive? Those are the three components. A lot of people immediately say it was the wrong people, because that is what you can quantify. But it may have been a crappy offer,” he says.

He highlights a failed mailing campaign by a restaurant chain to promote its loyalty scheme. There was little uptake and the client blamed the targeting. But Bradford says it was the quality of the offer that was at fault – in return for eating five times in the chain, customers would only get a 5 voucher.

One client that did act on the information available through CACI was the Wales Tourist Board. It receives 170,000 responses a year to its offer of holiday brochures. Detailed questions are asked at the time of responding about the time of year consumers plan to take their holiday, what their interests are and other lifestyle data. Historically, WTB has run a major campaign in late autumn, promoting breaks in Wales for the following spring.

But looking at the response data showed a different story, says Gillian Berntsen, marketing manager at WTB. What came out was that, instead of families booking for spring or summer, responders were more likely to be couples taking an autumn long weekend. “We have brought the campaign forward to ensure they have got the information before the autumn,” she says.

The creative work has also been altered, so the initial promotional leaflet now has an autumnal look and the fulfilment brochure’s cover features a couple, rather than a family. But while data can be used in this way to improve the impact of a brand, there is a risk in placing total faith in what the information has to offer.

“Direct marketing has become too scientific and built on the premise of establishing demographics. This has been to the detriment of creativity,” says Harding. He believes that just as brand advertising has often feared direct communications would compromise its values, so too direct marketing has been afraid of using above-the-line qualities.

Yet brand building and awareness solely through direct marketing is possible, he believes. Impact FCA! carried out a mailing for Rothmans, called “Out of the Blue”, which gave smokers a CD where all the tracks involved the word blue, and asked them to complete a survey form. Not only did this reverse the “rule” of direct marketing that a reward should be given only after questionnaires have been returned, it also gained 95 per cent prompted and 85 per cent unprompted awareness of the brand.

Across the marketing industry, it is now obvious that data sources, and the people who know how to use them, are knocking on the door of brand advertising. Until now, the usual reaction has been a door closed faster than you could say ‘integration’ but, far from losing everything in agreeing to let data guide the creative process, agencies may find it is to their benefit.

David Ogilvy’s famous maxim – “Never sell to a stranger” – has as much validity when writing a TV ad as it does when compiling a list brief. All it needs is for the two parties, above and below the line, to agree to co-habit.

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