The Integration Opportunity, Part 1

At DoubleClick’s Insight 2003 conference last week, I saw more new case studies espousing the benefits of shifting media budget dollars to augment online. The cases (without explicitly saying so) are calls to the industry for objectivity in media evaluation and integrated planning. Each makes it clear that taking an objective look at goals and applying the right marketing levers for the right reasons means greater success.

We won’t be able to put this theory into practice until many existing barriers are addressed, including financial agreements with clients, political agendas in agencies, and the lack of proper tools.

The single largest factor driving successful integration is assembling the right people at the right time — during the planning process. If you’re in a kickoff meeting and don’t see account planners, direct marketers, traditional media people, promotion marketers, and online marketers, you’re getting off on the wrong foot. All marketing disciplines must be represented to facilitate an objective evaluation of the goals.

Often, this is a difficult first step if your agency isn’t full service. It requires separate agencies coming together and working toward the common goal of moving the client’s business (no simple task). It’s unlikely these different agencies have any financial incentive to drive integration across other shops. What can result is a minefield of politics that prevent the collective group from viewing the client’s business objectively.

Full-service shops often face an equally daunting task. Though presenting an integrated front, many remain extremely siloed across disciplines. The depth and breadth of talent in specialized areas such as online media are often not sufficient for management to believe they can roll out the right plan and make money on it simultaneously. The resulting communications plan consists of elements the agency performs best and makes the most money on, based on skill sets and efficiencies. Although this makes a lot of sense from a financial perspective, it’s counter to the way consumers today should be addressed. Ultimately, clients will look for marketing services elsewhere.

I don’t profess to have a solution. The problem of getting multiple agencies to integrate efforts must be addressed on the client side. If a client mandates integration, it should ensure financial agreements are in place to allow all parties to collaborate effectively and objectively.

Answers vary for full-service shops. Solutions can range from changing financial agreements to permitting real full service to investing in talent that can execute integrated plans.

All the pain and heartache that goes into trying to make integration happen does pay off. Several of our agency’s current client case studies show return on investment (ROI) is at least 25 percent higher for integrated than nonintegrated programs.

In these cases, integration meant leveraging multiple channels of a media property (e.g., Web site, magazine, and direct mail lists). This type of media integration is fairly simple. In the end, it has no real impact on total media budget allocation. When we start questioning allocation to specific media, real results will occur.

Case studies are regularly trotted out to illustrate the increased effectiveness of integrated plans that shift more money online. There’s the original Dove Nutrium study, showing incremental lifts in brand metrics; the Online Publishers Association (OPA) TV/online media mix Air Force study, illustrating effect on message recall when reaching the target in multiple channels; DoubleClick Media Mix Modeling, showing the Internet’s role in driving more sales; and a great piece from my colleague, James Herring (who will soon co-author this column), specific to American Airlines. I’m sure you’ll hear more about that here in the future. All of these cases quantify in great detail the effectiveness of a shift within the budget to increase the online spend.

Clearly, potential for success exists. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for all of us to obtain the quantifiable results detailed in the above-referenced studies, as a great deal of custom research and manipulation of available tools (e.g., MRI) were required to achieve them.

I was frustrated to learn from an Interactive Market Systems presenter it’s not possible to replicate the results of the aforementioned American Airlines case due to customization required with MRI. When will it be available to current subscribers? He offered no firm dates and wasn’t confident of availability within six to eight months.

I believe market tools will evolve. They’ll allow better planning and quantify impact. Good examples of current tools are WebRF and Dynamic Logic’s cross media effectiveness research tool. Right now, we can’t replicate the scenarios in the case studies during planning periods. We’re in the same place as before: We know it works but have trouble proving it. We need to focus on making results of these studies actionable for everyone, beyond those who undertake these complex studies.

The tide is slowly shifting to a more integrated approach. We have a very long way to go before all the money that flows through traditional agencies is viewed objectively.

Meanwhile, continue building relationships with your counterparts in traditional media. Talk to your client about how best to facilitate objectivity. Hopefully, our colleagues on the research and tools side will continue to roll out solutions that make it possible for the rest of us to plan and measure like the campaigns in the case studies do. This will move us in the right direction and ultimately will result in more effective reach and influence of our target, increased online budget allocations, higher overall ROI, and delighted clients.

That’s what this whole game is all about.

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