Integration Burden Falls to Advertisers

Cross-media campaigns for blue chip advertisers can require involvement of many agency units, sometimes across multiple holding companies. Complicating that reality, many media outlets are being asked to behave like agencies themselves, developing original deployments custom tailored to their own unique audience dynamics.

Who owns the strategic vision these days? Is it the agency of record, pooling holding company resources and assigning work to regional and specialty shops? The answer’s often no, according to panelists at an ad:tech conference session on “The Future of Advertising.”

“On whom does the burden of integration fall? The answer is, right now, the advertiser,” said Ted McConnell, P&G’s interactive innovation director, during the Tuesday morning panel.

That can be a fine arrangement in cases where a marketer is confident of its ability to develop powerful concepts and execute them across platforms and end user interactions. Problems occur when the advertiser doesn’t step up with the big idea. All the orbiting agencies wait around for a vision that’s not forthcoming.

“More often than not, we get together with the [advertiser] and they say, ‘We need a big idea,'” said to Peter Naylor, senior VP of digital media sales at NBC Universal, on the same panel. “When do you need it? Not sure… How big’s the budget? Not sure. It’s not that one camp is smarter than the other…just that putting the idea together is hard.”

Naylor added, “Putting the goals we have together for the various agencies is very hard. No one has an epiphany. They’re looking for [other] people to say eureka.”

For some years, the biggest goal for in both creative development and media planning has been “breaking down silos.” That’s finally starting to happen. As the walls come down, however, the problem becomes how to align campaigns and marketing plans around a strategic fulcrum.

“You have to organize around the brand idea and around the consumer,” said P&G’s McConnell. “There are ways the industry is changing. You’re starting to see communication planning come into play. You’re starting to see consumer insights driving communication plans.”

All the panelists seemed to agree with P&G CEO A.G. Lafley’s exhortation to marketers at the ANA conference last month to “let go” of control of their brands. Yet there was no consensus about the best way to do that.

“Attention is going up, but the percentage of that that’s monetizable is going down,” said McConnell. “What’s the right way for a company to (engage) with a social network? How do you not screw up?”

He brushed aside the oft-raised issue of “how much control to give up,” likening the sentiment to “deciding how much money to give up when you have a gun to your head.”

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