Agencies Don’t Integrate

Marketers want integrated marketing. Our strategic, creative, and media efforts work best when working together; throw in PR, CRM, and CSR, and the need to harmonize only increases. As a result, marketers demand integrated teams, and holding companies respond by smacking together Team Blue and Team New. “Look,” says the president of global client solutions, “You get the best of this agency and that agency and this other agency. Even better, you get me to coordinate the whole constellation!”

It's become a popular formula in recent years. Unfortunately, it’s a worthless currency. Talented people join agencies, real agencies, with cultures and values and vibes. And in the best of scenarios, they form deep bonds with those cultures. This is the magic that produces great marketing — the trust, the ability to argue constructively, the efficiency, the rousing energy of a team, all aimed in the same direction.

And that will never exist in a concoction hammered together as a new business tool. Great people want to work for a community that transcends one client. Which sounds like bad news if you are, in fact, that client. Fortunately, there is a solution: a genuinely integrated agency. That’s right: a singular place with singular leadership and values, with one belief and process that motivates its people to do their best work for their array of clients.

Integration happens best when the folks doing the integration are already integrated. One team jersey.

Now the problem is, because of the rise of holding companies, agencies have been intentionally dis-integrated; media separated from creative in the 1980s; and since then, boutiques popped up to handle various slices of the marketing pie. That’s where the profits lie.

It’s also where the lies lie.

A media agency says add more impressions. A creative agency wants to shoot a Super Bowl ad. A PR agency hops on the influencer train. Every agency’s solution is predetermined by the services it provides (and the money it makes providing them). A cottage industry of self-interest.

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