1. Integration: Integration, lies and videotape. Tim Lindsay, TBWAUK and Ireland Group
Integration: Integration, lies and videotape.
Tim Lindsay, TBWAUK and Ireland Group, Campaign, 07 December 2007, 12:00AM
Integration has been around forever, but depends on an organizing principle
and belief system.
Just as every generation of teenagers believes they've invented sex, so each successive
generation of ad people appear to think that they are the first to stumble on the integration
issue. And yet most weeks, Jeremy Bullmore's column refers to the good old days of «full
service», when advertising agencies handled all their clients' marketing communications,
and a lot of their pack design and new product development too. Dammit, they even
planned and bought the media.
But, like sex, the integration issue has been around forever. Every agency I've worked at
(and I'm old enough to remember Kevin Roberts before he became a Kiwi) has had a take on
it. At Lowe Howard-Spink, we launched a very successful direct marketing agency (I think
Campaign's front page that week said something like «Frank Lowe invents DM») and bought
a sales promotion agency (remember sales promotion?). We all worked pretty well together
for some large, shared clients. In fact, I think we were integrated. So why does Campaign
think the word is buzzing now, in the 21st century?
Well, we «dis-integrated», following the money, as usual, with the media/creative
dislocation that we all now kvetch about being the most damaging consequence. Media, of
course, got tired of getting left off the end of the agenda (I know it's a cliche, but it
happened) and went off to develop a sophisticated and separate product. Direct marketing,
sales promotion, design, publishing and the rest did likewise, only more quietly.
There are, of course, a few honorable examples of companies that didn't jump off the
bandwagon and, therefore, have no need to jump back on it. They have been successfully
making integrated campaigns for happy clients for years, and are probably having a good
laugh at the rest of us. Our neighbor Rapier is a great example. But the rest of us are faced
with the challenge of putting the bits back together.
So, new agencies launch on «media-passionate-but-solution-neutral» platforms, and nail
their colors to the mast by hiring non-advertising creative directors. Bigger agencies are
busy developing «villages» of partners. Network agencies are looking for ways to make their
often mutually hostile specialists play nicely together. Some groups even offer any and
every part of the organization for a potential client's delectation – not a notably successful
strategy so far. Everyone has a slogan: choose from «360-degree brand stewardship», «the
power of one», «la holistique difference» and many, many more – all meaningless and
2. Integration: Integration, lies and videotape. Tim Lindsay, TBWAUK and Ireland Group
The spectacle of everyone heading inexorably for the same positioning utterly confident
that they alone have got it right certainly adds to the gaiety of nations, and proves the
aphorism that all companies start off different, but end up the same. But let's remember
that this is being done in the name of the people who pay the bills. Do clients want it? Do
they need it?
Until about a year ago, a prominent intermediary was still saying there was no point in
agencies flaunting their integrated credentials because clients didn't shop that way. Ad
accounts moved, media accounts moved, customer relationship marketing accounts moved,
but they never moved together. This, of course, is changing, and the thing that's changing it
is digital. It's another cliche to say that digital sits at the heart of everything we do. (Group
chief executives are starting to repeat it, mantra-like. But where were they all on the night
of the Campaign Digital Awards?) We only have to look at the US to dimly discern our own
future. The digitalization of our business and 21st-century life is the driving force behind
And clients need and want it (though not necessarily from the conventional sources)
because they need the industry's guidance again. Yet our delivery against a whole new set
of requirements, our organizational structures, our ability to reframe and redefine our
creative product and charge for it appropriately is stuttering. And that's because there are a
number of things that need to be in place before agencies can integrate their operations
and provide properly joined-up thinking and execution. And here they are:
• Real expertise. Really. It's not enough to know a bloke round the corner, or have a
friendly, occasional «affiliation».
• A unified management group. Which means someone has to be in charge of the
whole thing, willing and able to bang heads together (in a modern, non-coercive
• One bottom line, and senior management team incentivized on group
performance. Obvious, but comparatively rare.
• In one space. Geography changes behavior and proximity promotes learning and
• An idea to integrate around. Most likely to come from the deepest insights and the
best planning, so still likely to come from an ad agency, but can come from
anywhere (even a media company).
• An organizing principle. It's not enough to «create bespoke account groups». This
just means you don't have a strong point of view about how to do it.
• A belief system. Preferably expressed in one simple word. And a consequent set of
behaviors and systems that underpin the integration process.
No-one has all of these in place. Most have some. But the last two are the most important
and, of course, the hardest to create. You have to organize in a way that optimizes the
ability of specialists to make their contribution (we call it Media Arts). And you have to have
3. Integration: Integration, lies and videotape. Tim Lindsay, TBWAUK and Ireland Group
a philosophy that unites the disciplines, provides a common language and understanding,
and orientates the team so that they're all pointing in the same direction. We call that
«Disruption», and it means everyone knows what we're trying to do before we try to do it.
The rest is just management.
Tim Lindsay is the president of TBWAUK and Ireland Group.