Integration Essays: No consensus on integration

By Suzanne Bidlake, associate editor (reports), Campaign, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 04 December 2009 12:00AM

Far from being stale subject matter, integration continues to provoke debate as agencies adopt differing approaches.

Yawn! Ye olde integration debate. Again.

That may be your trendily cynical reaction as this hits your desk, but it would be wrong-headed. Because, far from fizzling out, the integration conversation is being stoked more energetically then ever. Just witness the number of agencies clamouring to be in this book.

And what's really interesting is how disparate their approach is to the whole business, even after all this time.

Here's a sample. For Mindshare, integration is all about storytelling. At St Luke's, they believe the key is a "brand idea", not a just a brand message.

Down the road at Imagination, "brand experiences" are the things it integrates to avoid building a "Frankenstein's monster" of bolt-on executions.

But it's not even an agency's role to drive the idea's development to the nth degree, according to MBA. "The transmedia narrative is integration for the Twittering classes," it believes. "If it is interesting enough, the story will blossom in ways you can't control and this is where the power comes from - letting other people propagate and develop the story."

VCCP is another champion of using social media, but at the other end of the process - the beginning. Wouldn't it be a good idea to listen in on consumers' conversations and use those insights to brief creative teams, it asks.

And how important is it to have all disciplines housed under one roof? It's one of the cornerstones of Engine's guide to integration, as is developing T-shaped people (who combine deep knowledge of one comms discipline with a broad understanding of the full range).

Certainly, "leaving single-discipline dictatorship behind" is key for the Golley Slater Group, where allowing consumers to drive the conversation with brands in whichever direction they choose is also very much part of the philosophy.

"Participation" (of consumers, clients and staff) is the new watchword at CHI & Partners that helps drive integration. It is changing the way the agency works, from briefing to people development.

You can't have true integration without a single creative chief or a shared bottom line, Kindred believes. With those in place, integration "is not what we do", it says. "It's how we work."

Tangible explains its approach neatly. It integrates "accidentally" while solving clients' problems. And for EHS Brann, consumers are those around which it integrates, as it digs deep into data.

There was a time when agencies "chased fool's gold, the dream of seamless, cross-discipline delivery", GyroHSR's chief creative officer remembers. "But," he points out, "if you don't deliver ... clear differentiations between channels, then how can you engage through each one?" Indeed, "the joins, the moments of difference, are what will surprise the market".

Much the same could be said of the agencies featured here. We should celebrate the differences between them.

If integration is such a well-worn topic, then why so little parity between agency approaches? The reason is the same reason that this industry - despite having an economic demolition ball swung at it - is still an incredibly vibrant place to be, stuffed full of people with fresh thinking and sparky ideas.

This, more than ever, is no time for yawning. Enjoy the read.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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