Nobody Wants Integrated Marketing
By Eric Tolkin
Nobody wants integrated marketing. Say this to most marketing people and you’ll get some pretty interesting looks, most accompanied with an eye roll and a line like: “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” But, I think I do know what I’m talking about, because I’ve seen it so many times.
Here’s my problem with integrated marketing: The individual pieces.
When one thinks about integration, they think of different elements coming together. Probably the best example is a puzzle. One unique piece is matched up against others to ultimately form a whole unit. In the case of marketing, these pieces could include branding, image advertising, direct marketing, digital, mobile, sales promotion, etc.
While many people claim they want their marketing elements to work in an integrated way, the unique elements, insulated from each other like silos, prevent that from happening. As with a puzzle, the goal is to get each of these unique pieces working together as closely as possible to create a whole picture. In marketing, the end result is to get the consumer to act.
What people really mean when they say they want integrated marketing is that they want unified marketing. They don’t want disparate pieces linked (integrated) together; they want one fused, cohesive unit. No seams. No gaps. No attempts at interlocking. Just a smooth, solid marketing sphere. When one achieves unification, every element of their marketing works seamlessly with every other element.
Why We Have to Settle for Integration
Not too long ago, circa Mad Men, companies had their ad agencies. That was it. One-stop shopping. Then agencies started to specialize. Direct marketing agencies, branding agencies, sales promotion agencies, and so forth. Now we’ve added digital agencies, mobile agencies, social networking agencies, etc. Then holding companies started acquiring all of these different agencies.
In my various business development roles, I would hear repeatedly how a client wants “a holding-company solution.” What they really wanted was all of their marketing to behave in a unified way. Beyond being a better way to market — think the power in synergistic marketing — it’s easier. One agency briefing, one invoice to approve, one throat to choke, one marketing voice.
The problem is that, while different specialty agencies may be integrated with one another, they are not unified! In most cases, each agency has its own P&L, account and creative departments, strategy and creative briefs, methods of compensation, on and on.
And while many companies try and emulate what a unified agency would be, few actually accomplish it. Behind that thin veil of “one voice” is each agency trying to stand out to the client to feather its own P&L, serve as the overall account lead and have its creative accepted as the winning concept, or at least convince the client that its creative should be executed, even if it doesn’t sync up with the approved campaign. The onus falls on the client to mandate the integration and, if possible, minimize the competition.
How Unified Marketing Can Exist
In my view, few marketing services companies, if any, have cracked the nut for delivering truly unified marketing.
To understand why, all you have to do is “follow the money.” Unless or until there is a radical departure from how individual agencies, especially those within a holding company, account for their P&L, nothing will change. Of course, there have been attempts. For all of its issues and industry jeers, perhaps the best attempt at unified marketing was WPP’s Enfatico for Dell.
As Torrence Boone is quoted as saying when he became worldwide CEO, Enfatico was to be “a next-generation agency with a diverse mix of marketing services and talent — all uniquely orchestrated to drive value for Dell and future clients…” Frankly, they got the concept right, but missed the mark in the execution. The reality may be that it is simply too difficult for legacy agencies to create a unified model.
I think the key in the quote is “next generation.” Perhaps the best shot at getting a truly unified agency is from a relatively new venture, one that is being built from the ground up, versus trying to piece together existing entities. When a single agency can be built by bringing in experts for a wide cross section of marketing disciplines, branding, direct, digital, social, mobile … all working and building toward the same results and incentivized from the same P&L, then you will have a truly unified agency.
Eric Tolkin is a senior marketing executive with over 25 years experience driving revenue, growth and profitability. He can be reached at email@example.com or 203-613-3718.