CAMPAIGN DIRECT: VIEWPOINT; Agencies must forget snobbery when they try to impress clients,

Why does the word integration conjure up images of mediocre work and mediocre people? Probably because, in most cases, it’s the truth.

Why does the word integration conjure up images of mediocre work and

mediocre people? Probably because, in most cases, it’s the truth.



Integration requires the commitment of an expert group of people with

real experience in all areas of communications. It can be delivered by a

group of companies or a single agency.



However, in the case of groups of companies, the onus is on the client

to police the process - to carve up the budgets, co-ordinate the

creative work and so on. And this can mean dealing with considerable

conflicts of interest.



This is not just a hassle, it’s a risk. If agencies are about providing

a service, it’s often not a very good one. So why isn’t everyone with a

one-stop shop? Because clients are not convinced they’ll get the quality

of product. Agencies with an above-the-line heritage don’t understand

the mechanics of a big direct marketing programme. Conversely, those

with a below-the-line background rarely produce top-flight creative

work, by which I mean good enough to rival your Abbott Mead Vickers or

Bartle Bogle Hegartys.



It’s only when you merge the two ‘sides’ from top to bottom that you

will get a genuine integrated agency. Ad agency people find it hard to

grasp the concept and revert to snobbery. Direct people feel threatened

and head off for the comfort of something they know.



People don’t like learning something new, and we’re very conservative.

That’s why it takes blood, sweat and tears to achieve proper

integration.



I should know - I’ve been doing it here for the past three years. It’s

taken that long to find people with the talent and the commitment to

embrace a different vision. Once the mistrust between disciplines has

disappeared, people see the possibilities.



Direct marketing experience brings you closer to the client’s business,

and of course to actual results. Combine that with top creativity and

you get something very interesting - a more effective, but just as

creative, approach. In my experience, the best above-the-line creatives

love product-focused briefs and hate waffle. Integration gives them

access to a raft of media that were previously out of bounds. Account

managers have a similarly increased repertoire. And soon the account

director who has no knowledge of direct media will look very silly in

front of clients who do.



To the client, the agency should be steward of the brand. It should have

the expertise to look at any marketing issue and apply the appropriate

solutions. And that can happen only when your agency team understands

strategy, the role of all media, the importance of creativity, research,

database and your business.



Integration is about the team of people as much as the work. It’s kind

of how an agency would look if the advertising business were invented

today.



Jonathan Stead is chief executive of Rapier Stead and Bowden



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