Media Perspective: Case for integration has never looked more compelling

The world remains a strange and mysterious place. The economy is on its knees, yet one million people pre-register for tickets to watch a middle-aged man with a tarnished reputation perform an odd bunch of songs from eons ago.

Of course, this is to caricature Michael Jackson as a has-been, but can the so-called King of Pop really cut the same moves and hit the notes he was capable of during the 70s and 80s?

Reinvention is the name of the game here and Jacko will have to adapt his act to the demands of the modern audience. Something that all types of agency, whether media, digital or traditional creative, are currently attempting to do.

Seen in this light, I found last week's news of Engine's acquisition of Edwards Groom Saunders interesting not so much because EGS happens to be a communications planning agency, but more because the key to the deal appears to be integrating Engine's diverse group of companies.

Integration is a tired old word, but, once again, everybody is talking about it. For Engine, this means the ability to take a potential overview of a client's business and do the right thing - which is not necessarily advertising.

Jez Groom, one of the EGS founders, has some particularly strong words to say on the matter of communications planning existing within advertising or media agencies and he may be right, but, to a degree, the larger media networks, at least in the short term, are grappling with the same issues as Engine: how to provide integrated advice and service delivery to clients who are generally moving to using fewer agency suppliers.

Having it all under one roof and under one brand is desirable and while many media agencies are not looking (yet) at integrating creative with media thinking, they are at least cleaning up their channel silos and swiftly integrating areas such as search activity with the rest of their business.

So, while content is set to be the next major battleground as companies eventually move out of the downturn (and some media agencies have already readied themselves for this), most clients currently seem to want the hygiene factor of large media networks delivering properly joined-up thinking across channels and markets.

Independent communications planning agencies certainly have a point of difference. However, there is significant pressure on the traditional media buying, exchequer-based, model of making money by sitting on large volumes of media. Oddly, this may just have the net result of forcing change and leaving the major networks better placed to offer genuine communications advice.

But, as with Jackson's act, expect this to be cautious evolution rather than revolution because, right now, the old bones that hold the media model together are just a little brittle.