Integration: Beyond multi-platform

A truly integrated proposal has to be driven by a central theme running throughout a campaign.

Isn't integration just the new way of saying multi-platform advertising solution? Well, for us at BusinessWeek, integrated is more than just the latest buzz word for sales - it's a way of doing business.

Why? Because, increasingly, it is our business. Very few briefs we receive require a straightforward page proposal. Fewer and fewer clients and agencies come to us simply looking for a selection of platforms on which to run their ads. Proposals that require engagement with BusinessWeek's audience in the most appropriate and cost-effective way possible are a prerequisite of all briefs. And, essentially, that's where we see the difference between the two - in the response to those briefs that demand something more than multi-platform.

We are not, of course, saying that multi-platform is dead - far from it. We've witnessed rapid media fragmentation and changing media consumption, and we've evolved our content platforms and our brand accordingly. But we believe an integrated solution is fundamentally different from a multi-platform one for several reasons.

Firstly, integration is not about shoehorning all media assets into one response, it's about being clever with the appropriate platforms in your portfolio - those that make sense for the target audience, and deliver results for the client and agency. In the past, media owners' responses have been multi-platform, but not much more. Advertisers are looking to engage with messages that stand out, not add to the clutter that bombards their customers daily. To do that effectively, you need to offer something more.

A truly integrated proposal is driven by a single, central theme that runs through every element of a campaign. It is this idea that will engage the audience, and engagement is key - particularly when dealing with business people. If your central theme really connects and encompasses the brand message, then it can hold the whole campaign together. Start with this and it becomes easier to select the elements that will bring that idea to life.

While BusinessWeek has an integrated solutions team, we don't believe good ideas can only come out of this unit. Integrated ideas are born from all areas of the business; the solutions team has the knowledge and the responsibility for developing and communicating them to clients. The big idea doesn't always come from within the business, either; some of our recent integrated solutions have included other McGraw-Hill companies such as Platts (the leading supplier of energy information), AviationWeek and Standard & Poor's. Others have included paid search to expand the audience beyond BusinessWeek and drive readers to a sponsored content area. We are also working with other media owners such as National Geographic and CNBC Europe to see what we can build together. By doing this, we can take the central idea to either a similar audience or a completely new one. So we're going way beyond multi-platform in our search for ideas.

It's important to note that to be truly "integrated", the idea has to be bespoke. Integrated solutions are developed by putting the client's needs first, not what's going to make money for the media owner. The best solutions are those that start by asking: "What are the business objectives?" The role of each platform then has to be evaluated against the central theme and the business objectives - how will this bring the central theme to life and will it engage the audience with the message? The solution may call for multiple platforms, it may require one. Integrated ideas are about being selective - a scattergun approach won't work.

You have to have creative resources at your disposal. Simply providing a choice of platforms is not always enough. Media owners have to be able to come up with the ideas and produce the creative collateral to execute them. From print creative to advertorial writers, podcasts to direct marketing campaigns, we try to make it easy for clients to buy into without the worry of managing different creative agencies. And we are able to make proposals scaleable, so the big, creative ideas are not just reserved for those with the biggest budgets. By providing the idea, platform and creative solution, clients who would have stuck to print only are able to expand their campaigns with dynamic digital formats they wouldn't have otherwise considered.

But no matter how creative the idea, integrated solutions must deliver on the promise to meet the client's objectives and be more accountable. Integrated ideas are notoriously difficult to evaluate. Media agencies, on behalf of clients, demand that all ideas are bespoke, but there's still a question mark over how agencies are structured to evaluate these ideas. We set key performance indicators, so we know what success looks like, then work with the agency on how that will be measured. We have a dedicated division that can implement the research through a third party or in-house.

So integrated wins over multi-platform. We need to be ever more astute with how we implement multi-platform campaigns, or we'll create nothing more than clutter. Integration wins because our competitive edge will come not from what we have, but what we do with it. Our strength will lie in our ability to come up with ideas, and to listen, create, innovate and collaborate in new ways.

Being integrated in your response allows you to do what you do, better.

- Jonathan Foster Kenny is the vice-president international sales director and Simon Baker is the international integrated sales manager at BusinessWeek.