The other evening Emily was on the CNN web site, catching some news before leaving work for the day. Suddenly she heard the familiar musical tune from the IBM commercials on television.

She walked around her cubicle, thinking someone had a television. But the music was coming from her computer. It turns out one of the banner ads on the CNN site was for IBM, and the music was coming from the ad. The music was as engrained in her head as the four musical notes of “Intel Inside.” Now that’s branding.

What’s A Person Gotta Do To Get Some Integrated Communications Around Here?

If you’re a company that wants to make an impact both online and offline (unless you have a full staff of real dynamos on your public relations and marketing staff), you’ll probably need to hire two separate agencies.

Most interactive agencies focus their attention almost exclusively on the Internet, while most of the traditional agencies are still largely clueless about how to leverage the Internet on behalf of their clients.

A recent study by Jupiter Communications says that over half of advertisers use a separate online media agency. Would you hire one agency to take over all your television public relations and advertising, and then hire a separate company to take care of newspapers?

The same disjointed hiring is happening over and over as companies outsource much of their communications activities. This disconnect is apparent, as print and television ads have little to do with their web and Internet presence. Too often the result is a stitched together company image or message that resembles Dr. Frankenstein’s creation more than anything cohesive.

Add Neck Bolts. Throw Switch. Serves 10 Million.

The only reason agencies are getting away with this kind of balkanization of marketing is because there’s such a feeding frenzy, such a chaotic flurry of marketing and communications. Companies don’t even see the lack of logic in separating their efforts.

Granted, Internet communications is complex and requires an intimate knowledge of the online landscape. But the same is true for public relations experts or media buyers who know how television news reporters and photographers work, or how to read those sneaky ratings and demographics reports from the networks.

Jupiter Communications released a study earlier this month, finding 75 percent of advertisers always or often integrate campaigns across media. But you’d hardly notice. Putting your URL on a magazine ad doesn’t count.

The key is to have some kind of follow-through for your users if they do visit your site based on a print or television ad. (Never mind those awful radio spots where the DJ clumsily stumbles over “w-w-w-dot-com.”) Likewise, just putting your logo on your web site doesn’t count.

It’s Alive!

By bringing together your communications efforts (some marketers like to call it integrating so it sounds like it’s harder to do than it really is) you need to consider everything in the look and feel of your online and offline materials.

This is tricky because, of course, the colors available to you on the web are quite limited compared to the print world. But it will behoove you to ensure that even your colors are as close as possible so your logo doesn’t look like barf on the web. (You laugh .)

You need to consider what kind of campaign you’re running offline and how you’re going to follow through when the user goes to your site. If you’re promoting a particular product, it should take center stage on your site.

What do you want users to do when they get to your site after seeing a magazine ad? Make it as easy and obvious as possible. Online, users don’t have time for subtlety.

Alone: bad. Integrated: good!

The Jupiter study crowns IBM as king of integration, noting the consistency of all its advertising efforts across all media. Watch a TV commercial, flip through a magazine, and visit their web site. Soon you’ll understand.

Of course, IBM has been at it a long time and has tons of money for marketing and advertising. But even small business owners can learn something. If you’re developing a web site anyway, and you’re developing letterhead anyway, and you’re placing print ads anyway it doesn’t cost you any extra to ensure consistency.

As for the agencies, they’re cashing in on the excitement over the Internet. Aren’t we all?

Interactive-only agencies are probably bored by the traditional media. And the traditional agencies may be intimidated by the irreverence of the Internet shops. But as the medium matures, we’ll probably start to see some merging of traditional and interactive shops to create true full-service agencies.

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