CAMPAIGN DIRECT: ISSUE - Shops should respond to renascent integration. Ad agencies must learn to employ a broad integrated strategy to meet the needs of clients. By Robert Dwek

Integrated marketing has become ubiquitous in the 90s. Like electric windows and central door locking on cars, it’s now considered standard rather than optional. So far, ad agencies have benefited from this through-the-line focus.

Integrated marketing has become ubiquitous in the 90s. Like

electric windows and central door locking on cars, it’s now considered

standard rather than optional. So far, ad agencies have benefited from

this through-the-line focus.



Despite early fears about below-the-line barbarians at the gate, ad

agencies have survived the period of transition relatively unscathed.

Indeed, their psychological importance as lead agency is still pretty

much intact, so that even if they’re not providing a fully integrated

service in-house, they are at least able to influence the look and feel

of the work produced by their below-the-line counterparts.



But as we approach the end of this integrated decade, storm clouds are

gathering on the horizon. Ad agencies may have survived so far, but key

clients are asking: have they really adapted?



Niall FitzGerald, the head of Unilever, has emerged as a high-profile

sceptic in recent weeks, having aired his doubts about the ability of ad

agencies to keep on top of technological change. And at a recent

Incorporated Society of British Advertisers conference, 30 of the UK’s

biggest advertisers said they wanted to see more integration skills from

their agencies.



Then there’s the Cable & Wireless decision earlier this year to give its

pounds 50 million account to a direct marketing agency, which pitched

against several ad agencies. C&W’s focus was integration and it had

clearly cut its emotional ties with the concept of ad agency as lead

agency.



Helen Burt, C&W’s acting marketing director, says: ’Integration has

opened our eyes to new ways of working with agencies. We used to put

everything into boxes, which meant using agencies for specific things.

But now we feel much more confident about our ability to pull together

the best resources from wherever they may be. The old way of thinking

has definitely gone, we’ve taken the blinkers off.’



Rover is another UK advertiser tugging at its blinkers. It appears

unhappy with its ’integrated’ ad agency, Ammirati Puris Lintas, and is

considering shifting its below-the-line work into a specialist agency

such as Evans Hunt Scott or Craik Jones Watson Mitchell Voelkel, which

already handles the Land Rover account in partnership with WCRS.

Industry sources claim growing discontent among the below-the-line staff

at APL. Three have defected to Evans Hunt Scott in the past three

months, apparently because they felt ghettoised and unmotivated.



Rover’s new marketing director, Martin Runnacles, formerly with BMW, is

keen to build stronger brand cohesion as the company adapts to new

media. He is reportedly impressed by the integrated work on Land Rover

but feels the Rover campaigns have been too focused on vertical

integration - ie, starting with ads and making sure that everything else

follows suit - at the expense of a more broadly based integration.



Perhaps, like a growing number of marketing directors, he believes it is

best to start the integration process from the bottom up, as it were,

rather than from the top down. There is a growing consensus that today’s

branding must begin with relationship building rather than mass

marketing.



If this is so, then ad agencies have a major rebranding job on their

hands. To be fair, many of them have already woken up to this, although

they are still having trouble getting the message across. Leo Burnett

has been plagued recently by bad publicity, which it attributes to a

’totally inaccurate’ article in the trade press. This helped give the

impression that the agency had a ’start-stop-start’ approach to building

its below-the-line resources.



Nick Brien, the Leo Burnett chief executive, admits there is ’an element

of truth’ to claims that ad agency culture is hostile to below-the-line

work, but asserts that his is not an ad agency. ’We are a communications

agency and have been so for the six years that I’ve worked here. We have

a serious commitment to and capability for providing integrated

communications,’ he says, adding that the C&W appointment of Rapier

Stead & Bowden ’showed there is no preserve on good ideas’.



HHCL & Partners has also suffered from perception versus reality

problems. Six months after it won a huge integrated account from the AA,

the motoring organisation gave a slice of its direct marketing work to

the below-the-line giant, Wunderman Cato Johnson. But Rupert Howell, the

managing partner at HHCL, protests that rather than being a sign of his

agency’s failure to deliver the goods, the Wunderman appointment was

encouraged by HHCL because ’we simply didn’t have the resources to deal

with such a big customer database’.



Although Howell stresses his ability to offer fully integrated services

for clients such as Guinness Ireland, Pearl Assurance and BA’s new

low-cost airline, he has ’no problem’ with ad agencies working

hand-in-glove with below-the-line agencies. And he thinks the fact that

the integrated issue is now being much more actively debated by clients

than was the case just a couple of years ago is a ’very healthy

development’.



The outcome of Rover’s review will encourage this debate. If it results

in a ’back to basics’ decision to keep ad agency and below-the-line

agencies separate, it will act as a reminder to ad agencies to think

before leaping into the unknown.



But if Rover ends up doing a Cable & Wireless, then advertising folk

will have genuine cause for alarm.



And if that one swallow heralds a summer, might it also mean the

beginning of the end for the traditional ad agency?



With that eventuality in mind, ad agencies which don’t start to present

themselves in a fresh way to today’s discerning clients may soon feel

that integration has been their undoing.



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Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).