The end of the integrated marketing era?

Friday, Oct 10 2008

I’ve been surprised recently to hear so many people in our industry claim the era of integrated marketing is coming to an end. They say it’s an overused term, and its meaning has become diluted. If that’s the case, then why did my Google search of “integrated marketing” just turn up 6.6 million hits? A Blog Pulse snapshot indicates the topic is hotter than ever. Clearly, integrated marketing is more than an industry buzz word. It’s actually a concept that isn’t going away any time soon, but the focus has definitely shifted. As digital media becomes ever more prevalent in our society, marketers—clients and agencies alike—are struggling more
than ever to get their arms around how to effectively integrate digital into their marketing programs.

With that said, you should not be surprised to find that it has turned up as a topic of one of the feature articles in our newsletter series. You should also not be surprised to see the chief digital officer authoring the article.

I believe digital practitioners tend to have a bird’s eye view of integrated marketing, because today, the digital component is often the hub of a campaign or the glue that holds the campaign together, and it’s definitely the piece that provides the earliest indication of whether or not the campaign is working.

Why is digital integration so important? Could you launch a successful campaign today without a digital  component?  Of course. Would it be stronger if you incorporated a compelling digital component? Based on our experience, absolutely. Would your tracking and measurement be more effective if you integrated digital into your marketing program? I could almost guarantee it.

Technology has created a fundamental change in how consumers interact with brands. So, as marketers, we’ve had to rethink how we engage our target audience, including everything from how frequently we communicate, to our ability to personalize the message, to how quickly we can optimize a strategy that is working, or adjust a strategy that isn’t working. And, digital media has affected every aspect of our business:

• Television networks now air many of their popular series online in addition to their regular slots in the primetime line-up, providing marketers with new opportunities to reach viewers.

• We can now conduct research in real time through online surveys and gather target insight through user profiles.

• Direct marketers now have tactics, such as “search,” “email,” and “online lead generation programs” at their disposal.

• Public relations professionals now must monitor blogs and social networking sites to effectively manage a company’s reputation.

But, even with my bias toward digital media, I strongly believe it should rarely be considered as a stand-alone tactic. Like every other type of media, it works best when incorporated into an integrated marketing strategy.

How do you make real integration happen? I have one word for you—Collaboration.  And, I don’t mean handing a brief to your digital experts and asking them to come back to you with some ideas. We agree with the industry experts who say that it’s not about having a digital practice within your organization, it’s
about everyone in the company understanding the space. But, the flip side of that coin is just as important, because without strong traditional elements either driving or supporting a campaign, the digital component
will almost always fall short of expectations.

One of the most critical decisions we’ve made through the years was to continue to build our digital marketing practice after the dot-com bust in 2000 when most agencies abandoned the discipline. We also did away with the traditional agency model years ago, forcing our various discipline experts—including
digital—to come out of their silos to sit at the planning table together, which has resulted
in highly successful, innovative marketing ideas that have driven remarkable results for
our clients. We even introduced a one-profit- center business model to ensure that there was no internal conflict about how the client’s marketing dollars were being allocated.

We’re doing something even more radical now to break down the walls. We’re taking the professionals from our award-winning digital marketing group and integrating them into the other areas of the agency. We believe the only way to promote true integration is to live it.

We know that there’s always a cost to change whether it means investing in training or battling any push-back we get from employees. But, we’re prepared for it. We know it’s the right thing to do if we’re going to continue to deliver smart integrated strategies that drive results for our clients.

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