Waking up to the integration age

A study reveals that marketers are beginning to realise the need for a variety of media channels, and that this requires better communication, teamwork and an awareness of the bigger picture

What does integration mean in the marketing world? A whole host of different things, according to marketing managers and directors.

Engine Group undertook research in order to understand more about how senior marketers are coping with new media innovations and how they view integration. A combination of qualitative and quantitative research was employed across those working in sectors including packaged goods, telecommunications companies, media owners, alcoholic drinks, retail and consumer electronics, accounting for over £500m of media spend combined.

Research shows that the bigger the campaign budget, the more sophisticated a view marketers are likely to hold on integrated campaigns. For example, 44% of marketing managers with a budget over £2m believe that an integrated campaign means the dissemination of different messages in different media, but which all support a core brand thought.

Marketers with larger budgets were also found to use a multitude of different media channels in order to achieve a broader spectrum of impacts with consumers. These clients were more likely to use both conventional communications agencies and companies that specialise in new media channels, such as viral, brand experience and digital.

However, among marketers with a budget of less than £2m, half (50%) viewed an integrated campaign as one where the same message is tailored to a variety of different media. These smaller clients were found to have used fewer media channels in campaigns.

There are differences in perceptions of barriers to integration among marketers. Companies with up to£2m of marketing spend saw the major hindrance to true integration as being predominantly physical -the lack of uninterrupted, face-to-face contact and communication when agencies were located in several different places.

By contrast, 56% of companies with a resource of between £2m and £5m, and 39% of companies with budgets over £5m were more concerned with the fallout from separate agencies vying to take the lead role in the campaign, and therefore being unwilling to support the ideas of others.

But what most worried the big spenders about integrated campaigns was that they felt each agency would have its own bottom line to pursue. This might encourage them to defend media spend in their own particular sector, rather than explore the most effective strategy for the client.

With a huge number of both specialist or single discipline and multi-channel companies currently in the market, these figures throw down some challenges for the conventional agency structures.

This is especially pertinent when you consider that many of the more mature respondents of the survey commented that they had not asked for the disintegration of communications services, nor did they feel that there was anyone truly neutral in the industry to advise on where budget should be spent.

The research also revealed that, in selecting the best companies to work with, 90% of those surveyed either agreed or strongly agreed that they would choose agencies irrespective of who owned them, and only a third (31%) said they preferred to have separate, unconnected agencies for different tasks within a campaign. Eight in ten (79%) agreed that they would consider an integrated agency that offered different companies that were experts in their own field.

Other important considerations for marketing directors rolling out a campaign were highlighted by the research. This includes the increasing scrutiny of shareholders who now claim to have an understanding of marketing and what it should deliver.

In addition, marketers recognise that other stakeholders need to be taken into consideration. Since consumers are becoming more vocal, and have more means to voice their concerns than ever before, legislative bodies, green lobbyists and other pressure groups all need to be given special attention when planning a campaign.

Marketers, therefore, feel wary of being manipulated into appointments or decisions that will reflect badlyon them. It is interesting that a number of start-ups, and even established agencies, are now claiming to offer through-the-line solutions.

Clearly, the industry is waking up to the fact that more clients are looking to use a variety of channels, in order to communicate with an increasingly sophisticated consumer population. And for this, taking an integrated approach makes good business sense.

The challenge for agencies claiming to offer integration will be to demonstrate best-in-class execution of campaigns across multiple channels. They will have to recognise that they should shoulder some of the budget burden for clients, and not just think about their own bottom lines.

Even single-discipline marketing services companies may have to reconsider how they operate and communicate with other roster agencies in order to ensure they get their slice of the pie in the future.  

Julian Hough, Engine Group group development director, contributed to this week’s trends

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