The Great Integration Myth…?

How it should be?

You hear a lot of chat about the importance of being integrated. About how, when all the bits are working together, communication seems to be a lot better. Reading the IPA DataBank backs this up too – when there are 3 or 4 channels, client money tends to work an awful lot harder.

So really, using a myriad of channels isn’t in question. However, what that doesn’t tend to address is the overlap. It’s tricky, because most agencies believe they can do just as well as the others at brand building, at social media (because, let’s be honest, isn’t all media social in some way?) and at generating ‘buzz’.

And who should lead? The ad agency? The PR agency? The digital agency? Media? Should it be divvied up by the activity the client wants to perform, or should people work together and decide who gets the lion’s share of the budget?

The problem comes when one agency is clearly the generator of the idea and strategy, and yet, executionally, won’t get monetised for making it. What value an idea, and so on – it seems to me why a lot of bright brand consultancies don’t last that long, because billing for an idea is like nailing jelly to a wall. It just won’t stick.

It gets even more complicated when there’s one holding company, with each agency having its own bottom line. And it got me thinking – why don’t clients make it quite clear about what channel/s they want to use, and pay for an overall ‘organising’ agency – the agency which is going to provide the strategic glue to hold it together?

Without this payment, you just get a boatload of activities which either don’t correspond, or don’t work as hard as they should, as agencies are fighting for their own slice of the pie. And it tends to be woefully short termist. If it were me, I’d reserve 20/30% of the budget to adapt the thinking as the campaign goes on, to be spent refining after the work has been responded to by your audience. That part of the budget would be left as money for the strategic partner to assign to a channel as the campaign continues on; after six months, say.

This thought isn’t perfect, I admit. But it’s clear that the one stop shop is yet to wholly bear fruit (although there are examples out there – VCCP’s integration of digital/search/PR and ATL work has worked well for several clients, it’d seem), and this ‘come up with an idea’ approach by some clients leads to a bunfight a lot of the time.

Thoughts, gang?