Integration is a term that’s frequently used by brands and agencies but is still not always fully understood or implemented. Integrated briefs are becoming more commonplace, but there is still nervousness about the possibilities and pitfalls.
A recent survey by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) revealed interesting variations between how advertisers and agencies perceive the current state of the pitch process for integrated briefs. Some agencies believe brands are not briefing in enough detail and are reluctant to share data, while brands feel they are providing enough information in plenty of time. Differing views aside, this is evidence that integration is high on the agenda for CMOs.
With brands rightly focused on producing customer-centric strategies in a more connected world, the merits of real integration are vast. However, without a shared vision for the brand and a collaborative team, true integration is not possible. This essential bedrock allows the sharing of information, exchange of data, an honest dialogue, and, ultimately, a better experience for the consumer.
Once the relationship has been established, then the real work can begin. Does the brand have one central message that can seamlessly run through every touch point and channel? Is there a clear tone of voice? Are the brand values the same across channels? Is it authentic and clear? If not, this needs to be reviewed and resolved as a matter of urgency. With CMOs budgets being centralised and increasingly reduced, clear messaging allows you to integrate your communication across multiple channels and control the messaging much more easily.
Putting Into Practice
L’Oréal in the U.K. is a great example of a brand that’s becoming more and more integrated. The “Because we’re all worth it” idea has built consistent and on-message marketing, across a range of media. Its consistency has amplified its impact as the brand behaves in the same way everywhere you find it. This foundation has also allowed the brand to be continually creative—taking risks and innovating, as with its recent CSR initiative with The Princes Trust.
It’s important to note that integration is not a replacement strategy. It is an effective extension of collaboration and, therefore, when done well, is in everyone’s best interest, not least that of the customer. Our experience with Vauxhall has shown that having a one stop shop has huge appeal to brands. Sharing a vision means both parties are working towards delivering a more seamless customer experience, with less repetition and more focused efforts. Working with one partner to create a campaign from concept through to delivery resonates with marketers and means fewer meetings and less bureaucracy.
We have recently strengthened our relationship with Vauxhall even further after the vehicle manufacturers consolidated its marketing services account and appointed us to oversee CRM, point of sale, print, aftersales, and retail marketing. We achieved this by understanding and recognising Vauxhall’s need for a truly integrated approach and the requirement of a one-stop-shop solution. We will be delivering a transformative change to Vauxhall Motors, ensuring that, strategically and creatively, all brand and tactical activity is delivered in an engaged and seamless way for its customers.
Challenges And Options
Over the years, I have worked with many specialist agencies to create integrated campaigns for brands and have had some great experiences. It has meant having access to a range of talented people, with fresh perspectives. For the brand, this can work well, but it does increase the risk—more people to manage, persuade, and influence, and more agencies needing to embody the spirit of integration—and, as the saying goes, you’re only as strong as your weakest link.
Some brands are taking sections of the business in-house, which can have clear advantages. It gives them much closer oversight of the work and tighter control over squeezed budgets. However, subjectivity can be reduced, and the retention of talent can become burdensome. CMOs, of course, must have all options open to them and be free to choose the best route for their brand, but a purely financial rationale risks degrading the delivery.
In some ways, whatever option is chosen, integration in a broader sense will always be the key driver for success—whether that’s a blend of specialist agencies, in-house experts, or an integrated agency led by the brand.
We all want to create and deliver marketing and advertising that resonate with the consumer—that’s what drives all our businesses. So if we can integrate the needs of the consumer with the desires of the brand, we will all benefit.
The debate over agency models will, doubtless, continue within the industry, but it would be fair to say consumers couldn’t care less about these issues. Whatever model you choose, ultimately, it is the consumer who will define your success—and they only get more connected with each passing day.