The last year has seen an unprecedented rush by agency and
marketing services groups to broaden their range of services. Some of
the activities are well thought through, others less so. As a provider
of marketing services, the fundamental driving force behind extending
your offering should always be the needs of current and potential
clients. But the genuine needs of clients will only be met if the
provider is capable of extending the quality of its core offering to the
The 80s theory of ’one-stop shopping’ is a concept which was an
acknowledged failure for agencies (and, indeed, for other industries
such as banking and insurance). Is integration in the late 90s going to
be more successful?
A qualified yes. The accepted view is that one-stop shopping failed
because clients didn’t want it. They might have gone for it, however, if
agencies had better delivered their promises and honoured the non-core
There is no doubt that many clients (particularly multinationals) are
now structured in a way that makes an integrated through-the-line
proposal very attractive. The transformation in communications and the
internationalisation of media make the marketplace quite different from
the 80s. The agencies that will win real marketshare in the next three
years will be those that genuinely see the changes as opportunities to
move forward rather than as a threat to their client base.
For example, an agency that can see much of a client’s spend moving from
traditional campaigns to direct response is likely to fail if its
solution is simply to acquire a direct marketing agency. Buying a direct
agency requires an understanding of the dynamics of a different approach
A traditional agency can probably be relied upon to assess the creative
credentials and cultural fit of the direct agency, but would it know
about the database requirements of its clients? The successful agency
groups will be those who invest in this knowledge and accept that the
management skills required to deliver integrated communications are not
necessarily ones they are used to.
However, the opportunities available to those who succeed are huge. As
well as integration globalisation of below-the-line activities is now a
reality. This enables international agencies to develop their strategic
skills and, perhaps for the first time, to allow for a more objective
approach to the consultative process with clients when marketing
campaigns are fashioned.
One thing is certain. There will still be a place for specialised
above-and below-the-line disciplines focusing on their core business.
Clients are attracted to a more integrated and international approach,
but it still has to provide better solutions than a purely local fix to
succeed in the long term.