Media Perspective: Is COI's integration process helping get its house in order?

Integration was, yet again, the word on people's lips this week. We saw MindShare "close down" its House of Media in light of a new global positioning for the agency.

The decision was also a reflection that having "rooms" for separate disciplines makes no sense when everybody is rather nauseatingly talking up putting digital and data at "the heart" of their agency, rather than tucking it away in the basement next to the boiler room.

Separately, COI announced the results of a review of its media buying, conducted by the Radio Advertising Bureau founder, Douglas McArthur, amounting to COI exploring "the integration of buying between media channels".

COI, often viewed as a market leader in the way it deals with media agencies, has always maintained a roster of buying agencies based on medium and best-of-breed at buying that medium. It isn't going to change this in the short term: it has instead extended its media buying contracts with agencies including MediaVest and MediaCom - probably wise, given that COI agencies deliver some of the best buying prices around.

Instead, it will work on ways of encouraging these agencies to work more closely together, and with COI's separate communications planning roster, on ideas that will work across channels.

This may go some way to addressing the downsides of a siloed approach, but there remains the danger that this will amount to little more than talk, as ideas get lost in the cracks between agencies.

Intriguingly, the area that might see the most change is digital advertising, with COI emphasising that it will work harder on integrating this with "mainstream media". I-level currently holds the business, and it will be interesting to see to what degree the agency can work with its mainstream rivals on integrated ideas.

Most important, though, will be the role played by COI's communications planning roster. Arguably, the one practice holding back "integration" and cross-channel solutions for COI was its once-progressive practice of pairing ad agencies with media agencies from the comms planning roster, which, in my view, ended up placing too much emphasis on advertising as the solution, and often led to the media agency's fortunes being linked to the quality - or not - of the creative solution.

This practice hasn't been officially dropped, but it's encouraging to see more COI clients holding separate comms planning pitches, or even holding the planning pitch ahead of the ad agency pitch. In recent weeks, we've seen the Food Standards Agency, the Children's Workforce Development Council and the Department of Health all hold separate comms planning pitches - an encouraging sign as COI seeks to balance value with innovation.