INTEGRATED: VIEWPOINT; Integration belongs to the clients, agencies are only there to help

Aren’t you glad that it’s so difficult to become a doctor, lawyer or architect? If you are not bothered about it, my two-year-old son charges pounds 500 an hour and is proficient in all.

Aren’t you glad that it’s so difficult to become a doctor, lawyer or

architect? If you are not bothered about it, my two-year-old son charges

pounds 500 an hour and is proficient in all.

It seems that everyone and anyone practises integration today. You don’t

need qualifications or experience. If you can string together a few

different group companies under the corporate banner and the odd post-

rationalised case history, you are away.

Integration is one of those things the ad industry seems keen to define

after it has happened, or via a long list of companies which the agency

will only introduce to the client at the pitch, or months after it has

won the business. If I were a client, I’d first ask an agency that is

pushing its wares to define integration. Go on, try it! It’s a question

I wish I’d asked the builders who worked on my house (define


It is because of this previous ‘in-house’ experience that we’ve briefed

out the integrated relaunch of our dilapidated house to three interior

design consultants (all IDDA qualified and registered). It is amazing

how many agency folk consider this a profligate use of money and are

sceptical that it is an efficient and effective solution. The analogy of

the ad industry’s indispensability to its clients is lost on them.

More irritating, to this client anyway, is the number of people who

assume that, by involving an interior design consultant, we are

relinquishing the decision on how our house will look. We’ve got a

strong vision and issued a clear brief, but we’re open to ideas. We’re

quite happy for someone else to grapple with the intricacies of

integrating the plumbing and electrics.

It is at this point that the analogy with integration in communication

(as defined by quite a few agencies) would probably end. If it didn’t,

then I’m sure I would have encountered one of the following proposals:

a) A room that was co-ordinated by matching everything - floor, carpets,

furniture, ceiling, walls - in the same shade of red. Fine if you’re

briefed by Edgar Allan Poe, but not the result I’m looking for.

b) The insistence that the key to the design of each room was always the

wallpaper - you could brief the furniture and lighting much later.

c) A bathroom design which assumed that 90 per cent of the budget would

be spent on the tiles and blinds, instead of the bathroom suite.

d) The expectation that one or more of the tradesmen employed would be

acceptable, despite their credentials and references not being up to


In the final analysis, clients define integration. The sooner we

understand that our role is to help in integration and not own it, then

the more indispensable we will become. As my winning interior designer

said, ‘At the end of the day, it is their house, their money and they’re

the ones who will have to live with it.’

Mark Palmer is communications strategy director at WCRS


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