Isn't this topic getting a bit dull now? It's really simple. The executive summary is: integrate or die.
A team from the University of London has been analysing the DNA of people throughout Europe, Asia and Africa who carry a specific gene variant known to give resistance to tuberculosis and leprosy. It concluded that over time, those who inter-mingled with dense, urban populations were far more resistant to the diseases that killed their less "integrated" counterparts.
And while that might seem a somewhat esoteric point of comparison, we can't help thinking there are undoubtedly parallels between this more literal, evolutionary kind of integration with the kind of integration that's the main subject of this essay. Because, just as the intermingling of their DNA has helped those people become stronger and more likely to survive, so we believe that it's only by integrating the DNA of data, digital, social with mainstream media expertise, that we'll be able to prosper in our ever-evolving landscape.
And evolving it certainly is. After all, once upon a time, integration was driven primarily by the need to create media and creative synergy across a (usually small) number of channels. Today, clients are facing a much more diverse and fragmented media landscape. Modern domestic and global brands are operating in a world that's becoming more, not less, complex.
More significantly, they're having to deal with a different kind of audience landscape. Because, at the last count, there isn't the same handful of target audiences kicking around any more. There's upwards of six billion individual ones. By 2042, you're looking at more like nine billion. All different. All expecting a more meaningful, unique, relationship.
And the cause?
You've guessed it. That whole digital revolution thing. Or more specifically, the connectivity most human beings now have in their day-to-day lives.
Because it touches all of our lives, every second of every day - from smartphones to iPads to more interactive TV experiences. In truth, digital isn't a channel; it's part of our lives.
And if that wasn't a big enough deal, you've got the emerging predominance of the social world. Not only has it caused a huge shift in the way businesses build relationships with the individuals who buy into their brands, it's forced the nature of integration to evolve. Because in the "SoMe" world, we just can't create and manage creative ideas in the way that Don Draper and his colleagues once did. Back then, integration went hand-in-hand with control: campaigns were planned, connected and distributed in the way - and only the way - their agencies decreed. Make mine an Old Fashioned. Cheers.
Fast-forward 50 years and we're looking at the new glitterati. On a horse. But are campaigns such as the Old Spice Man truly integrated? And if they are, on what basis can they be described as integrated? Would they have been created as a result of an integrated brief?
They may well have been, but, on the other hand, they certainly don't follow the old model of integration. Where's the key visual? Where do we distribute the idea in paid media?
In this hyper-connected, interactive new world, brands need to find a new way of engaging with their consumers if they're even going to survive, let alone prosper.
For a kick-off, that means they can't just sell, sell, sell any more.
Today, brands will only sell if they engage. And by engage, we mean enter into a relationship. Even - dare we say it - have a conversation. You know the type, where dialogue goes backwards and forth or even involves a group or two. These conversations are sometimes fun, sometimes informative, always rewarding and always build deeper loyalty.
It's a brave new world, alright. And one in which we shouldn't give a damn where the idea comes from: eCRM, design, music ...
More likely, it's born from the collision and interaction of different expertise.
It's no longer about the old-fashioned ad agency working through clients to cascade an idea across other specialist agencies. It's about finding a smart, modern way to focus on and address a client's business challenge. It's about amplifying an idea across channels - making the idea stronger and more compelling for consumers, the more they encounter the brand across numerous touch points.
More importantly, it's about businesses that understand where the new fuel for integration will come from. Data. We believe - as we always have done - that the key to integration lies in using data to orchestrate and develop core engagement platforms in the social and personal world - platforms that are managed in a far more dynamic way that the previous model of integration ever made possible.
That's why at 4D, we say that our ideas and solutions are founded on the principle of making brands personal - personal, because we do everything we can to know more about consumers. Personal, because our data analysts apply data insights to everything we do, making sure it's targeted, relevant and most of all, compelling - across any channel.
It's by using that methodology that we've been able to develop and send ideas such as BETC's "water babies" into the world. Ideas with a beginning, a middle - and a long, long tail. And, most importantly, ideas that consumers pick up on and make their own.
And sure, like sending your own kids out into the world, that means surrendering control. But to go back to our DNA theme, if you've used the right model of social and mainstream media integration, at least you can be sure they've got the best possible make-up to help them survive, thrive and prosper. And isn't that the most any parent can do?
- We believe, as we always have done, that the key to integration lies in the development of core engagement platforms that are delivered in the social and personal world, orchestrated by data and managed in a much more dynamic way
- Today, brands will only sell if they engage. And by engage, we mean enter into a relationship and talk - to make the idea stronger and more compelling for consumers, the more they encounter the brand across numerous touchpoints
Tash Whitmey and Daniel Floyed are the co-group managing directors of EHS 4D Group
(From Campaign's "What Next in Integration" supplement,December 3 2010)