A few months ago, a national newspaper, writing a glowing article about a currently fashionable advertising agency, said the shop in question "trampled all over the current vogue for carefully honed adland theories of success like 360-degree brand stewardship, the mantra of Ogilvy."
What nonsense! The writer (not, I hasten to add, the agency he was writing about, which, at the moment, is producing some of our industry's best work) was wrong on three counts.
First, 360-degree brand stewardship isn't a theory or a process. It wasn't dreamed up by an egghead in an ivory tower; it was and is driven by our clients' needs. It's also driven by the importance of brands, which, as we know, are our clients' most important assets. Three-sixty is a way of doing things, an approach that is (or should be) in the DNA of any 21st-century agency.
Second, it's not some new, "vogue-ish" thing. David Ogilvy first started talking about it as far back as the 50s. He understood the primacy of the brand, and it's been at the heart of what Ogilvy has done ever since.
Third, this article seemed to imply that 360 constrains creativity. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is not a substitute for creativity - ideas come first. Just as you can't create a memorable TV ad by employing fancy camera angles and great locations but neglecting the script, so you cannot get great 360-degree brand campaigns without a big idea at the centre and at the start. Big ideas must fuel the executions in every discipline. Great ideas - delivered 360 degrees - will help develop the strongest brands.
I also think that 360 - or, if you want, true integration - is one of the most liberating things ever to happen to our industry. If implemented well, it nurtures great ideas and attracts clients who want those great ideas in order to help them solve their problems (aren't we all here to solve our clients' problems, after all?). Remember that our greatest brands - Dove, IBM, American Express - engage our intellect and inspire our creativity. And when it all works together, it's just magic. If you've seen the ads, the posters, the mailers, the websites and so on, you'll know what I mean.
Any good agency, a shop that relishes and rises to challenges, should be able to make engaging marketing communications for a great brand in any medium.
But where the writer really missed the point was by failing to see that an integrated approach is no longer a matter of choice, but of necessity. Sure, there will always be brand owners who "just" want a TV ad, a guerrilla PR campaign or a piece of DM, and there will be agencies who can give them that. But for the global or regional brands which are - in a world whose borders are dropping faster than at any other time - increasingly dominating the consumer landscape, nothing less than 360-degree stewardship will do.
As we all know, media is exploding and recombining in complex new ways. New communication channels, with new ways to touch the consumer are proliferating faster than anyone can keep up with, let alone master. And with all this fragmentation going on, images of brands now come in the form of what our global chief executive, Shelly Lazarus, calls "a mosaic of bits" - bits that may or may not add up to a clear picture. On top of all this, competition is getting ever stronger and coming from more places. And technology is speeding everything up. Product advantage is becoming a fleeting differentiator, and unsustainable over time. The brand, with its weird and wonderful ways of living in the hearts and minds of consumers and creating a warm glow of engagement, may be the only constant left in this fast-moving world.
Building and sustaining the brand is not just about creating great TV ads or fantastic posters. It has to be about something more. It's difficult to define exactly what a brand is, but at Ogilvy we believe the brand is the relationship between a consumer and a product, and that every point of contact is what creates that brand relationship. We approach the task of building and sustaining the brand by first understanding this relationship as deeply as possible, and then recognising that it is experienced in a total, 360-degree way.
Every point of contact, whether it's the advertising, the website, the packaging, the showrooms and shops, or how it's reported in and reacts to the media, or the DM, the service experiences, the annual report, the employee newsletter, the logos on the delivery vans, the phone receptionist's manner, the call centre ... These all add up to the total 360-degree brand.
So, for a brand communications agency such as ours (hey, I'll own up, I still tell everyone I work in advertising), PR is as important as outdoor; customer relationship marketing is on a par with TV; design sits alongside experiential marketing.
We know that we must offer clients every possible means of brand-to-consumer contact. We call it 360-degree brand stewardship, which is an organising principle around which multiple disciplines can work as a team for the brand. You can call it what you like, but the principle is the same.
And finally, an observation. We spend an increasing amount of our time with clients not talking about ads (ads, remember, are just one point of contact with the brand, albeit the most visible), but rather ideas - about what their brand is, what it stands for, who the truly brand loyal consumers are, and why. How does this brand affect them? What is their experience? What should it be? So, to my mind, this is a very long way from just imposing either a "vogue-ish" notion or a carefully honed dogma upon them.
- Gary Leih is the chairman and chief executive of Ogilvy Group UK.