The power of integration

By David Bonthrone

When the ad business exploded in the late sixties with the adoption of television, which enabled marketers to talk to consumers en masse, the benchmark of success for brands was “increased awareness”. Out of home, radio and print were, with TV, THE mass media that brands needed to achieve success. Numerous studies proved that increased awareness correlated to higher sales. However, in the past decade as the media landscape has become more fragmented marketing has become more complicated than simply using mass media to drive awareness. As the recent demise of Twinkies – a product almost universal known in the US – showed, awareness doesn’t always translate into positive brand value.

Nowadays, more consumers research their purchase decisions than ever and advertising is no longer trusted, instead the recommendations of friends are valued more highly than any other source. This puts the consumer, and not the brand, in the driving seat. As a result we are seeing a more integrated, or holistic, approach to solving marketing challenges or maximizing a marketing opportunity. Brands are now looking to build brand value not just by increasing awareness from mass media, but also through other key elements within the purchase funnel such as ‘considering trial’, ‘increasing retention’ and ‘improving brand loyalty’. To ensure that the same message is communicated across multiple channels – integration is essential.

The marketing services business changed as well as the agencies that execute these tactics for their clients have had to evolve and modify their offerings. Ogilvy & Mather embraced the first 360-degree model to supply the industry’s most respected integrated offering via OgilvyOne, OgilvyInteractive, OgilvyPR and OgilvyAction, among other units. Others followed. And in some cases, as clients more recently are driven by the need to be more cost efficient, agencies are being asked to provide all these services under one roof.

Let’s look at the integration of creative and messaging. As integration took hold, the assumption was made that the same creative can be adapted or repurposed for a different channel. ‘We developed a great concept for TV which has to work across all media channels’ would be the brand manager’s cry. In theory, this sounds like a great idea. In practice, however, many studies have shown that new creative needs to be developed for each of the channels as marketers are trying to fulfill different consumer needs. I believe one can adapt the core creative idea to fit the needs of each channel, but messing with brand guidelines and identity is sacrosanct.

Having talent that strategically understands the need for and implementation of integrated solutions is, frankly, rare. It is human nature to revert to one’s area of comfort and expertise. Most Chief Marketing Officers on the client side have been brought up on mass media and they tend to have been experts in disciplines such as public relations or direct marketing. Similarly, on the agency side, and because a disproportionate amount of budget is still allocated to mass media, the business leaders tend to come from that type of background. Despite this, things are finally changing – and FAST –CMOs are having to realise the importance of the digital channel where the key skills are focused on being able to “tell”, not “sell”.

So what role will ‘integration’ play in the future? I believe it will be ‘assumed’ that depending on the objective at hand, there will be a role for integrated media, integrated creative and integrated teams. Those that continue to pay lip service to the need to integrate as a result of the influence of these new channels will be left behind. In today’s world, marketing integration is essentially creating core creative ideas that can be adapted across every medium. We are finding that as ecommerce continues to grow it provides even more opportunities for integration and content creation. Obvious examples are the enormous brand value being created by the likes of Zappos and Amazon and others via the digital only channel. This will continue.

This shift to integration is opening up more opportunity for marketers and agencies alike: I believe that contextual and engagingly cost-efficient content, which is commerce enabled and lives on any medium, is a sound platform on which to build the ‘integrated’ communications company of the future.

About the author

David Bonthrone is Managing director North America for Group FMG.

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