United We Stand

Avoiding the agency death match in an integrated campaign

 Finding the perfect marketing mix is a near-mystical quest, on par with the secret of turning lead into gold. This elusive formula is so entrenched in interactive marketing that I took a whole college course about the subject. While we focused on the best practices for making campaign channels work together, we also spent a lot of time discussing failed case studies. Each presented some hot-button tactic that almost always failed to "play nice" with
the other campaign pieces. In other words, when the shiny new gimmick's luster dulled, little more than a theoretical idea remained.

As a media planner, I've been tasked with participating in these forays into messaging paradise and my takeaways have always been the same. Every slick new marketing toy tends to have a really positive start that gives way to a markedly less enthusiastic application due to its intrinsic difficulty. Creating a unified message is not the problem; rather, treating each piece as a vital part of the whole makes integrating existing channels with flashy new tools a challenge (or chore, if you prefer).

I've boiled down a few key lessons from my years of failures - and successes - when attempting a truly integrated online campaign.

It's more than just playing nice. When integrating channels, you often coordinate with multiple agencies. When this happens, unity of voice is not as problematic. But overemphasizing one piece of the strategy over another?
Much more so. The advertiser must emphasize that each channel plays a crucial role. When you champion a single piece of an entire strategy, you lose the power of an interconnected picture. Making something the be-all and end-all might pay off, but if it fails - man, it really fails.

Embrace new toys, but don't forget the old. Sure, it would be really cool to have your campaign spread like wildfire through the blogosphere. But if your highest converting channels have traditionally been search, shopping feeds, display advertising or email marketing, do not fall into the trap of spending less time or budget on your higher performing areas to pursue "the next big thing."

Freedom with control: a parent's worst nightmare. Here's where things can be a bit dicey on the tactical end. As you're collectively brainstorming and crafting final messaging, creative, look and feel, etc., it can become so controlled that you strip certain channels of their effectiveness. What might look great in a tv commercial could flat line in a digital display. Though it may require extra hours, allow yourself the time to express the campaign elements in a manner appropriate for each medium.

We're all in this together, right? Once you get the green light, it's too easy for each channel to retreat to its respective corner. But it is imperative that you view results holistically. Ideally, the advertiser will adopt attribution measurement, whereby each channel and each action under it receives the proper allocation of credit. Maintain open communication lines to establish pre-campaign benchmarks, and as the campaign runs, create centralized reporting to assess the overall effectiveness. Otherwise, it's not really an integrated campaign - just a campaign with similar creative.

We are responsible for leading the industry toward proper attribution modeling and measurement, and we should want to work for advertisers that view integration as a sum of parts rather than a bad episode of Celebrity Deathmatch. While everyone wants his or her team to score the most points, the ultimate goal is to create success for the client. Whether your title is CEO or account manager, it is in all of our best interests to repeat to ourselves and to one another this mantra: "We will do this together, we will measure this from one repository of data, and as the curtains close on our campaign, we'll celebrate as a whole."

1 comment about "United We Stand".
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  1. Jeff Thaler from GroupM, March 24, 2009 at 4:53 p.m.

    Well put. Couldn't agree more that, we're all in this together. However, there's a lot behind resisting the retreat to respective corners you point out. An engagement model that facilitates collaboration operationally is the only way to ensure that there is alignment in strategy, execution and measurement.

    For more on this topic, see: Media and Creative: Live together or die together.

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