Every time an ad agency executive uses the term “fully integrated”, I close my eyes and wait for the inevitable. What follows is the executive telling me: “Every other agency boasts of full integration but that not many get it right.”
It’s probably true but then it’s probably also the case for a lot of those agencies’ clients. Integration is about using the correct blend of marketing disciplines and media channels to enable a brand to deliver relevant communications, when and how consumers want them. So integration is just another word for being customer focused. Yet many marketing departments within brand owners are split according to products as opposed to having any broad sense of integration or customer focus. This makes it harder to deliver an integrated campaign than it should be.
The difficulty multiplies once you leave the marketing department. Businesses typically split into individual silos such as marketing, sales and customer service, each with their own databases, meaning a single customer view is hard to attain. If you’ve ever spent the best part of a day trying to solve a problem on the phone to your bank or insurer, you may have shared my frustration at how little one department knows about your specific case compared to another.
This is one of the things I was mulling over when I heard Rory Sutherland make his inaugural speech as the new president of the IPA last week. Rory talked about agencies losing sight of the value they can add to their clients by being obsessed with “hair-splitting distinctions between different specialisms”. He spoke of the need to start thinking about how disciplines can actually be more effective when employed together, as opposed to believing that “the only way to pay for a mobile phone application is by cannibalising the TV budget”. He’s right.
Agencies need to think that way. So do advertisers. Because that’s the way consumers think. They never consider whether a communication is above or below the line, only whether it touches them and moves them to action.
The landscape of the marketing industry is altering constantly, with change being forced by recession or prompted by structural developments in the industry (the ever-increasing digital opportunities for example). To remain meaningful and ride the change, there may be a need to restructure your operations in order to think, react and behave like those you’re trying to reach..