The landscape of advertising continues to change dramatically.
- Television ratings are declining while TV advertising costs rise.
- The Yankee Group predicts that by 2007, 20% of the nation's households will have personal video recorders like TiVo that screen out television ads completely.
- In a June 14, 2004 Fortune article about the advertising industry, Devin Leonard writes, "The old forms of media on which they (ad agencies) relied for years are rapidly losing their grip on consumers."
The solution? Advertising and marketing budget reallocation across multiple disciplines.
Which leads to the real solution—integration.
But why, in an age where so much time and ink has been spent discussing integrated communications, do so many companies still feel they're not doing it well? A recent study commissioned by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found that only 21% of clients in the study felt their integrated marketing efforts were excellent or very good, while almost 33% claimed them to be fair or poor.
Think of it like this—if integration, as it is practiced today, were a new product; there isn't a company in the world that would launch it with those kinds of research results.
Like so many emerging practices, there are a number of models that advertisers currently embrace to achieve integrated communications. But how you integrate is less important than what you do before you start.
Here are five building blocks that must be in place to make up a successful integrated program:
A client that demands it.
Making integration work is ultimately the client's responsibility. The client must clearly communicate to all of its marketing partners that integration isn't an elective. It's not easy—agencies, especially if they are not bound together by management or finances (and sometimes even if they are) are more inclined to compete than work together.
A common vision.
This requires a well-articulated brand vision and consumer target that drives all the work. All parties must know and embrace what the brand represents and how it looks and feels. Client and agencies alike must have a deep internalized understanding of the psychographic profile of the brand lover and the aspired brand lover.
Like all great concepts, integration needs a disciplined, process framework in order to succeed. Integration must be a critical component of the brand or client's annual planning process with defined success metrics and consistent evaluation. Evaluation leads to refinement and continuous improvement.
To win the war, integration also needs a champion. Within the client organization a "keeper of the flame" works with the marketing team and with the agency network to ensure integration is implemented. Externally, integration needs a clearly identified lead agency—an owner of the brand strategy issues—whose leadership role is endorsed and supported by the client. The lead agency proactively teams with the client's other MARCOM agencies and resources to insure that the brand message is consistent in thought and voice, regardless of where it appears.
A barrier-free environment.
Barriers to integration can be organizational, cultural and financial.
Organizationally, the client champion acts as the primary touch point for all internal and external teams. Additionally, silos within the client and agencies functional areas must be eliminated or managed.
Culturally, agencies and clients need to embrace teamwork and think across disciplines and beyond their individual areas of expertise. Specific cultural behaviors, like information sharing need to be encouraged.
Financially, everyone needs to have a shared stake in accomplishing great integration. Success metrics for the client's business, the brand and client-agency relationships need to be articulated and reflected in incentive compensation programs.
There is little doubt that integration is important today and will become more critical in creating successful marketing programs in the future. But before you build your marketing house on integration make sure these five building blocks are a part of your foundation.