Until a decade or so ago, marketing managers would spend a few long hours with each agency – the account servicing executive from advertising, a consultant a PR firm, a content writer and a digital agency, and then ending up to the media buying firm.
Now, what most clients get are ‘brainstorming’ meetings over an integrated marketing campaign presentation, set up by a series of partnering experts from each of the above-mentioned verticals. These may or may not belong to the same parent company but alliances of this nature are more frequent. Today, most reputed firms and agencies with award-winning expertise in particular segments, pride themselves as they announce consolidation with firms from parallel communications sectors.
So while there are quite a few impressive pro’s of integration, effectively proven from the rising trend, that is beneficial to the clients and the brand, they do come with a con. The diluted talent or lack of sector-specific expertise is one of the major factors ailing some of the bigger integrated agencies. Another key factor hurting the brands is the independent approach, tailor-made for each dynamic platform, such that the brand benefits out of focused and well-planned execution, thought though well for each specific medium, designed to achieve a targeted outcome. Most often, brands have various needs which may not always be addressed by all or specific set of the medium. An agency known primarily for its advertising reputation, for e.g., either sets up a PR division within its company or partners with a smaller boutique PR firm to cater to the PR needs of its existing clients. So while the advertising agency might lead the account, the PR may be a secondary campaign, intended to complement the advertising. This, however, may not necessarily be the best form of PR for the brand.
With multiple communication channels, real-time broadcasts and publishing platforms, consumers as influencers and a virtual marketplace competing with the real one, the brands today are under the highest scrutiny and vigil at all times. Having an expert who can micro-manage a medium of communication effortlessly and is allowed to do so at his own discretion, not bound by the other channels of marketing, can be exactly what a brand might need to be effective.
The key to a successful IMC for a brand is a well-coordinated, talented and well-performing team, much like an orchestra where each musician is in sync to create the symphony. A half-cooked campaign with poor execution or a week strategy on any one of the mediums could do more harm to the brand and the campaign than the anticipated good. So while I understand that the benefits and the business sensibilities of a 360-degree communication agency, I would also like to add that it is the cautious execution and the compatibility of the talent that will eventually translate into brand success. If these talents are cultivated and work in synergy under one parent company, it generates accolades for the agency. But if these happen to be separate entities, also working in complete synergy, the brand is still the winner. The key here is perfect synergy, which is crucial to the success of any Integrated Marketing Communication strategy.