Most people in communications see advertising agencies - and other types of agencies, including the so-called "specialists" - in different groups. Whether by habit or convenience, the truth is that it became much easier for the market to label the competencies of the first group (creativity, media planning, research) than the characteristics of the specialists, which are usually identified by a single skill, such as digital, PR or branded content, for example.
But consumers' minds do not operate in a "specialised" way. For them, brands have only one voice and a single purpose - regardless of whether they are advertised in a TV commercial or an event, or showcased via a social network.
Much has been said about convergence. Chief marketing officers are eager to see it happen, but why do they then insist in separating communications disciplines? Integration is not just gathering several agencies in a room and waiting for them to have a "big idea", but a single line of thought born together with a business strategy. A unique voice.
This perception led us to create our agency, Ideal, with the belief that communication should not be defined simply by the tools an agency uses. The idea is that there is no such thing as "integrated communication" since, by applying this notion, we assume that we work with separated disciplines in a world where they are increasingly inseparable. The fact is that we don't believe in advertising or specialised agencies, but simply in brand agencies that are able to provide the solutions clients need while communicating with their public - in any format.
Reality check: there is a gap between what agencies have been offering clients and what clients actually need. Today, in communications, it is impossible to think that a sole solution will be enough to tackle each and every challenge a business faces.
Ask companies like Google, Nike, McDonald's, Diageo or General Electric what they're looking for. The answer will be more than increasing sales, having followers or appearing on the cover of a newspaper. The fact is they all need more than branding. They want to build a reputation.
How you do this doesn't matter. You can be giving out leaflets in the street or buying millions in advertising, using social media or pitching stories to journalists. What really matters is the image and perception of stakeholders regarding their brand and how it will improve business results. And, to start this conversation, brands need a solid reputation.
We stand for a new understanding of how it will all work from now on. We divided our business into three major areas - influence, engagement and activation - covering the three types of media (earned, owned and paid) a company needs. This is something daring, especially in Latin America, because, in most agencies, everything is still separate. Creatives don't know how to brief, publicists don't understand how to buy ads, social media analysts are not able to write a press release. What if it all came together?
The key to accomplish that lies in gathering the right team: professionals who are able to wander through more than one field of the communication spectrum and think of it as a whole; people who aren't too attached to an orthodox thread of thought and who can design a strategy across all platforms.
Not only must a brand be well-known, a brand must be respected too - and agencies are the ones that can inspire it to achieve this goal. That's what we do. If branding is what a company says about itself and reputation is what other people say about a company, we are a reputation agency.
In the Brazilian market, with the momentum coming from the build-up to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, brands have set their eyes on our country with the highest expectations. Agencies have to embrace this opportunity.
According to the latest Consensus Ad Forecast, released by Warc, advertising investment in Brazil will show the world's third-highest growth this year at 9.8 per cent (the US will have 2.2 per cent), and the forecast for 2014 is for us to be first. This is only in advertising. We are talking about a country where the corporate communication market has grown 300 per cent over the past ten years and 15 per cent annually during the past five years, according to the Brazilian Association of Corporate Communication.
The question is: how will brands take advantage of this momentum? Will they brief their agencies to take only one bite or eat the whole plate? And, more importantly, who is prepared to do so? It's time to think about hybrid communications.
Ricardo Cesar and Eduardo Vieira are the co-founders of Ideal
At a glance
- Founded: 2007
- Principals: Ricardo Cesar and Eduardo Vieira, co-founders
- Staff: 154
- Locations: Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre
- Favourite digital campaign of 2012: "Find your greatness" by Wieden & Kennedy Portland for Nike during the London Olympics. It featured everyday athletes competing in places around the world named London
- Learnt anything new lately?: Every day, non-stop. Lately, we've been discussing the idea that the storytelling skills that advertising agencies are looking for should be provided by a new kind of content producers: brand journalists