How many times have we heard the old integration arguments trotted out in the marketing press? Once again, as Bates Dorland announces its intention to offer a more integrated service, the marketing press revive the subject and the debate does another round.
There are always two main arguments against integration.
First, the cultures of advertising agencies, direct marketing agencies and sales promotion agencies are too different. It could never work.
Second, how can one agency be expert in all disciplines?
Neither of these arguments should stack up. First, because if there is a market, or at least a market potential, for integrated services then there is an opportunity for agencies to meet the market need. If that means changing or reinventing the culture then so be it. It might be difficult culture change always is but surely not impossible.
Second, when it comes to expertise, the argument is even less credible. Expertise comes from the people within an agency. If you hire expertise at a senior level in all relevant disciplines then the agency can, of course, be expert in all disciplines.
The problem lies in agencies’ motivation for going integrated. Far too many advertising agencies are motivated purely by a profit opportunity. They don’t really want below the line to interfere with above the line but think that if they bolt it on they can make more money.
They have no real intention of changing the culture. They think they can simply buy in expertise and off they go.
The reality is that to be successful the senior management of an agency need to want integration and all it entails.
A complete culture change, a new staff structure, a different way of working with clients, new contracts and fee arrangements, new priorities in creative work and awards and a different approach to media planning and buying, research and creative development.
The truth is that most agencies are too conservative, too set in their ways, and too short-sighted to make the enormous changes that are required.