Feature

Integration: Peace has broken out

When media owners attempted to lead an integrated campaign, this used to send agencies into battle. But now there's a real understanding.

Media owners used to know their place. They would wait for clients - via their creative and planning agencies - to come to talk to them. Woe betide any print title or broadcaster that stepped on to an agency's patch and dared to talk to an advertiser directly. That was considered a hanging offence. Yet, in a rapidly fragmenting media market, this narrow thinking is of no interest to advertisers.

They want the simplest and most convenient way to reach the people. This means an integrated communications strategy, and if it involves letting a media owner lead the whole process, then so be it.

Consumers switch between different online and offline media, and an advertiser wants someone to come up with a great idea that will work across all platforms and be managed sensibly.

There is no reason why a campaign involving everything from event marketing to digital media should not be led by a media owner. Most press and broadcast organisations have already remodelled their core businesses, adding event, research and digital teams.

We have an insight department whose job it is to generate valuable brand and market insight that gives the data held by many media agencies a run for its money. This information tells us who we should be partnering with and how.

I understand why some traditionalists at marketing agencies might feel as if their noses have been yanked out of joint by what they see as media owners trespassing on their ground. But they don't need to suffer such pain. This is all about trust and about everyone working together for the benefit of the advertiser.

Our insight department shares its findings with agencies, and media planners have been known to spend a day with agency staff when preparing for a pitch. When we lead an integrated campaign, we even offer to pay for a project manager to sit in the client's office, just to reassure them. Peace, it seems, has well and truly broken out.

The bottom line here is that agencies must get used to media owners wanting to play a more active part in this new, integrated world.

It has not been easy. Media owners have had to change their way of thinking, too, and be prepared to work more closely with organisations that are effectively competitors.

We produced some engaging content for IBM around Wimbledon, which appeared on other media channels. We are always being asked by agencies if we are prepared to work with print partners, such as the Financial Times, and these are discussions we are willing to have.

Brands such as Shell, BT and Zurich Financial Services have no qualms about seeing a broadcaster as a single point of contact for a fully integrated campaign. They know that even if we devise a content deal and lead the communication, their relevant agencies will not be far away.

When BT Global Services needed to convince executives the company was actually a global supplier of networked IT services, the creative was a joint effort between itself, its agency Starcom and CNBC.

For Zurich, we devised unique content for a series called Change Reaction. It was a weekly, five-minute programme profiling companies that have responded to major business challenges, and it linked nicely to Zurich's claim to help companies cope with change. The shows went out during our Power Lunch Europe programme and were promoted across other media by Zurich's agencies.

For Shell, we produce the Questions for the Future series of six debates about energy that are held around the world. There was limited on-air branding, but Shell invited guests to be in the live studio audience and it had exclusivity during the ad breaks. It has been shown on CNBC Europe and CNBC Asia, and the public's perception that Shell is committed to renewable resources has risen by 19 per cent.

This is about integrating brands into television programming to get cut-through. It may sound like we are champing at the bit to become a full-service organisation, but in reality, that is a long, long way off.

My bread and butter remains putting spots on air - as my boss is quick to remind me at every opportunity. In fact, whenever I get carried away with the need for a more joined-up approach to advertising, I quickly remind myself that we are, first and foremost, a business and financial news broadcaster.

Getting closer to advertisers does have its difficulties. The thorny subject of editorial integrity will always raise its head and there are the usual Ofcom rules to obey, but advertisers increasingly want access to our talent, especially our programme anchors.

Clients and agencies need to understand this is rarely possible. After all, a presenter might be interviewing the client's chief executive about his annual results the next week and the relationship would be difficult. Put it this way: would you expect Jeremy Paxman to appear in a TV ad for a company he is likely to be questioning?

If a media owner is leading an integrated campaign, it needs the trust of the client and its various agencies. An editorially led project cannot be blatantly sponsored.

The broadcaster will know when is the best time for any bespoke content to be aired. Our viewing peaks and troughs are different to those for terrestrial broadcasters, with some of our highest audiences recorded at 7am. We will integrate a campaign into our schedule when the relevant audience will be the most receptive.

Whenever a media owner wanders into unfamiliar territory, there are risks involved. When not simply selling advertising but initiating ideas and leading integrated campaigns, clients get to see us naked.

When we were in Sao Paulo filming one of the Shell debates, some of our team missed their flights, spent 35 hours getting there and arrived with food poisoning, having not slept in a bed for two days. No-one at the local hotel where we had created the studio spoke English and there was a power cut just as we were about to go on air.

Working so closely with clients is not always easy, but as demand for a fully-integrated approach intensifies, media owners will be doing a lot more of it.

- Liz Jones is the vice-president and European sales director of CNBC Europe.

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