Staying neutral takes discipline

I was interested in the views of Heather Westgate (MW last week) on the “new improved” integrated full-service approach to marketing. However, there is another manifestation of the approach, eliminating the “internal power struggle” that so concerns her.

It is to ensure cultural synergy between the providers of the marketing services required – though I agree this may seem unlikely when attempting to “marry” various agencies of different ownerships and backgrounds.

But if a single agency could provide the required expertise in all the different disciplines and could deliver properly joined-up thinking on the client’s business from day one, would that not be a purer expression of a “new improved” full-service approach?

True, the multinational groups can deliver multi-disciplinary marketing, but though ownership is common, operational cultures in the individual agencies (beyond profit delivery into HQ) are quite often entirely disparate.

The key to ensuring the success of a single-company, multi-disciplinary approach lies with the head of the client’s business, who must ensure that the starting point is a definition of and response to client needs uncontaminated by discipline bias. This means not only media neutrality but discipline neutrality, too.

This single point of contact, when combined with a team of like-minded pure specialists in their fields, is the recipe for success. We’re finding that an increasing number of clients seem not only to endorse the concept but are keen to buy into it.

As a former client myself, I’ve tried Heather’s approach and found it no guarantee of freedom from “power struggles, backbiting and competition behind the scenes”. It can even be a recipe for them. It’s also time-consuming for the client to manage.

Fortunately, true integration does exist. Let’s hope we’ll be seeing more of it in 2005.

Chris Lovell

Group chief executive

Golley Slater



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