Integrated marketing communications answers to many names. It’s called through-the-line, since it synergizes above-the-line communications (known as traditional advertising on print, television, radio) with below-the-line (myriad non-traditional advertising streams from events to retail, digital). The aim: to build a 360-degree brand presence. Its modern name is “activation” since it sparks various points of brand dialogue with the consumer.
Integrated is also known rather poetically as the whole egg, since it helps present a unified brand image with no contradictions. Its business potential is definitely sunny side up for ad agencies, since many multinational advertisers are dedicating more than 25% of their hefty ad budgets to cost-effective non-traditional platforms.
Agencies are hence creating brand activation units of overwhelming ambition. JWT India has just forged NLX (New Life Xperience), which focuses on activation via various media platforms. Under Bates Asia Group’s watch, we’ve seen the birth of 141 Sercon.
Some agencies are, however, also having to wipe the whole egg off their face. While they frantically add novel specializations under one roof to attract or retain new business, “experts” in many of these areas are scarce or not really experienced since digital, retail, etc. are emerging zones here. Some clients also believe that outside specialist companies in digital, direct marketing and so on have better credentials in these areas. Agencies retort that the communications solutions they suggest to advertisers are more impartial or media-neutral. That they suggest relevant, cost-effective media platforms for a brand rather than getting clients to spend more of their communications budgets on specializations they (agencies) have, units in. Unfortunately, the structures of many integrated set-ups are still based on silos or specializations housed in rigid compartments. This encourages power play, instead of unbiased media solutions and unfettered creativity—ideas which can start from any discipline such as PR, direct marketing and then extend to other disciplines. Also, profit and loss statements for each specialization are often kept separate, so individual managers are hard-pressed to grow their unit’s business first rather than suggest media streams that are best suited for their clients. Meanwhile, media buying and planning agencies are also adding digital, creative and new-age units that may either vie with integrated agencies for business, or work with them on a brand. Think of the coordination nightmare, getting digital teams of media to work with digital experts of integrated and so on…
Marion Arathoon is Mint’ s advertising editor. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org