Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: The Truth about Integration

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: The Truth about Integration

Article excerpt

It takes more than just adding SEO to a traditional agency's offering to give it 'digital expertise'.

What does integration mean? It's a word we are hearing a lot, and, as you might expect, there are a lot of agendas in play here.

Back in the early 80s, when direct marketing agencies started springing up, integration was a hot topic. 'How', asked marketers then, 'can I integrate my brand and direct activity?'

They were concerned principally with media leverage and creative consistency, and the agency networks responded by acquiring direct agencies.

There is a difference between acquisition and integration, however, and plenty of DM agencies still exist separately. Does this mean the work is not integrated? No. Many marketers have found that 'integrated' agencies might be convenient, but they sacrifice focus and expertise to achieve this.

Think of the Swiss Army knife. It's not a good screwdriver, the corkscrew is painful to use and the knife isn't the best, but it's portable and useful for lightweight general tasks - though you would not use it for serious work.

Right now, this argument is being rehashed in digital media, where the agency networks tell us they are raising their game, 'putting digital at the heart of the organisation'. They point to studies showing that TV and press influence response rates to digital advertising, and stress the convenience of one call for busy marketers.

To be effective in this space, however, an agency needs to combine triple-A standard display, search, SEO, affiliate marketing, technology and data practices. Search and affiliate marketing may deliver some of the same outcomes as media, but they are planned, traded and managed in completely different ways, using different tools and skills.

SEO is principally a technical discipline, although objective-setting and measurement align it to marketing.

Even media is very different online. Trading uses different models, with agency deals a disadvantage. Smart agencies use workflow and knowledge-management tools, while most still employ Excel spreadsheets for planning. Media exchanges and auctions are on the horizon, and technology plays a central role in effectiveness.

Data is critical. Sophisticated data models are the key tool, analysing the interdependency between the different digital channels and the influence of offline, and driving investment based on real customer responses in real time.

None of these skills is that of the traditional media planner or buyer The networks failed to anticipate clients' demands for digital expertise, and are now in a rush to build capability - but they are missing two key ingredients. …

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