Integration: Searching for integration

It's every marketer's dream to deliver true integration, but that is much harder to achieve than it might first appear.

Every marketer wants integration. Just as a fulfilling job, a great relationship and a day in the sun each get a tick in the multiple-choice questionnaire of life's desires, so integration is a no-brainer for clients.

A coherent, co-ordinated brand message that is applied across and meshed between varied consumer touchpoints. What's not to want?

The difficulty in achieving fully fledged integration springs from the confusion around who can actually make it happen, and who should be managing the process. Clients, creative agencies, media shops or media owners? The answer is none of the above. Currently.

At one end, clients are structured in such a way that makes it difficult or impossible for them to handle all the disparate dishes offered up on the integration platter - so they end up merely buying spots after all.

At the other end, media owners struggle to find ways of monetising the integrated add-ons - so they end up merely selling spots after all.

In between, creative and media agencies tussle for sovereignty, with the latter desperate not to return to the old-style hierarchies of full service.

But for integration to work its magic, someone has to take the lead and steward the process.

Perhaps it should be whoever creates "the big idea"? Or the one who manages the multi-platform co-ordination ("the deal")? Or the one which has the data to claim it's closest to the market (and owns "the consumer")? Again, creative and media agencies and media owners can all lay claim to those titles - especially as creative shops start to add channel planning to their offerings.

CNBC Europe's Liz Jones makes the point in the following pages that there's less squabbling over ownership of "the big idea" these days; that everyone is grown up and that "peace has broken out", no less.

When agencies and media owners put their heads together around the Campaign lunch table the other week, there was a concerted attempt to achieve that (although Ogilvy Group UK's Gary Leih and MindShare's Jed Glanvill couldn't help sparring).

But, inevitably, in real life, there will still be a frenetic scramble to sit atop the heap, to be the one that drives campaigns in a newly integrated dawn.

As a result, creative agencies are adding media to their mix as part of that race, media agencies are hiring creatives, and media owners are questioning the need for media agencies at all.

No-one has a clear idea of the model that will triumph, if indeed there is one. TBWA's Tim Lindsay takes the unapocalyptic view that everyone will sharpen their propositions to differentiate themselves anew. "We don't need to be everything to everyone, but we do need to be something to someone," he says. "If you are clear about what you believe in, you will be attractive to a minority. And that's enough." That's about as concrete a prediction as you'll come by.

One thing that has emerged crystal clear from the integration question is that a new breed of planners are poised to lead the charge - a kind of uber-planner. They will be generalists working across the spectrum. And, finally, some day, clients might get exactly what they want.