First published on www.mediaupdate.co.za in November 2015
It’s impossible to attend an industry conference or talk without the word ‘integration’ entering your earholes. And the reason for this is because integration offers more; it enables communicators to give their clients strong, centralised solutions.
By Remy Raitt
More and more agencies are realising the power of the integrated service offering; and are subsequently evolving with the client and their needs. Kevin Welman, the managing director ofFleishmanHillard says; “We help tell the client’s story, and we need the ability to do that at any time, on any channel, in any way and anywhere.” He says integration makes this possible.
Pick your sides
But integration doesn’t just mean waking up one morning and taking on every service offering known to the modern marketer or public relations professional. Welman says it’s critical to seriously think about what services your agency should, and can, be offering. “The starting point is really, honestly knowing what you do and what you don’t do,” he says.
Put your client at the centre
Erica Gunning, the managing director of the South Africa MEC Group says integration occurs because clients crave “one desired effect”. She says because integrated agencies provide a full picture of how clients can reach the consumer, it’s integral the agency can fully provide the response the client is looking for. Welman echoes this, saying that integration is not for the benefit of the agency, but exist because clients want integrated solutions that are centralised.
Not only is this cost-effective for the client but also offers efficient solutions. Adrian Furstenburg, the media liaison of Just Perfect says an agency that can offer integrated services from conception to completion not only streamlines the process but also keeps it “focused in one place, with a common objective – from beginning to end, which means that it can receive the dedication and cultivation it needs to have the desired impact on the market”.
Dig into digital
Gunning and Furstenburg agree that digital is the biggest driver of integration. “Digital is fundamental as it links everything to everything – literally,” says Furstenburg. But this doesn’t mean traditional is left in the dust. Instead, Gunning says the agency has to find smart ways to merge digital platforms and traditional media. “This adds value in synergy,” she says. “But you need to work out how to build your reach and how to drive digital, once you’ve figure that out it’s easier to drive the client.”
“Digital is not new, it’s just a different channel,” says Welman. He believes the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to digital is that it’s multi-faceted, and therefore it’s imperative that the agency works out what platforms they should be offering their different services on.
The integrated employee
Around the world, advertising agencies and PR firms are coming together or morphing their service offerings to provide integrated solutions. Gunning says this fluidity between the two helps eliminate any overlap. “It makes life much easier if the client partners with one agency who can take care of the full pitch.” She says these requirements have prompted the birth of the “hybrid strategist”. Gunning and Welman say that an integrated agency would work with a two-fold approach; with one person managing the relationships and communications channels, and a team of specialists behind them who offer depth.
Challenges to overcome
When it comes to integration, Welman says the challenges are vast. “PR traditionally employed that specific A-type person, but now there’s this overlay of highly creative people too. There’s a new range of personality styles and working methods.” But he believes there’s a simple solution: “If the agency knows what they stand for, you will staff-up in direct relation to this and it will all come together.”
Do you work at an integrated communications agency? Tell us about the ups and downs of this type of operation below.