Digital/Traditional Integration Efforts Abound -- But Are They Real Collaboration Or Just Co-Existence?
Who's zooming who?
Having served in creative leadership capacities both above and below the line, in both the digital and traditional seats at the table, as well as in the media one, my perspective has been that these models are only as good as the adults at the table. Throw one old-school creative ego from the traditional side too many (isn't one enough?), and the entire effort -- marketer-driven or holding company-driven -- ends up becoming a veiled attempt at collaboration that's really more akin to co-existence in the time of cholera.
That's not to suggest it doesn't and hasn't worked when we're willing to check our egos at the door and let the best ideas surface -- no matter what partner they emanate from. But by and large, what generally goes on behind the curtain is a cram down from the traditional agency on the media, interactive, sales promotion and PR partners at the table -- because few of the traditional creative directors are willing to admit that maybe, just maybe, the connections planners, interactive agency or sales promotion guys might just have a bigger brand idea. They're just too used to controlling the ideas within their own agency to realize that perhaps it's they who require adult supervision, not their smaller, younger, more nimble agency partners left elbowing their way to the table from the bottom of the brand team's food chain.
Having spent over a dozen years on the traditional side myself, I am still truly astounded at how little the average traditional creative director knows about media connections planning, or the role of the digital channel in the marketing mix, or the media mix, let alone what contextual versus behavioral targeting is and how they effect creative development. Are they hiding under rocks? Or are they just under there still believing that foreign directors reels and clever TV spots hold the key to real long-term brand building currency in the digital age?
It's time we all got out of the advertising trees and into the marketing forest. Where the stuff of moving from pure campaign awareness to honest activation and real authentic relationships are generated, cultivated and serviced over time.
To really do this, marketers will need to reorganize and change their structure and performance measures to help brand managers evolve to being chief integration officers -- not just stewards of the 4 Ps they were trained to years ago. As for the holding companies, they need to be brave enough to TELL their global marketers that they simply cannot deliver Best in Class partners in all disciplines, but are at least willing to ensure REAL collaboration -- not just co-existence --between their co-owned and operated below-the-line service companies at the table. As for those who remain independent, you have the hardest work of all. Earning your seat at the table with the more politically connected but less agile giants whose quarterly growth and goal is to marginalize you from being anything but a vendor is the challenge you face, whether your ideas are good -- or even great.
From where this creative sits, the best and biggest ideas should be able to surface and be recognized no matter where they come from -- even if it's the consumer.
The question is, who's adult enough to handle them when they do surface, so that we do end up truly advancing relationships between brands and consumers -- instead of just continuing to build reels and buddy systems?