The Restlessness Of Collaboration

The collaboration imperative has never been more pervasive inside agencies, across marketing organizations, and between partner or cooperative companies.  On the sell side, it's still an aspiration -- with the objective of channel integration. And the market reality of richer options than ever has only intensified this imperative.

 While many of my brethren will say that "integration" is a buzzword and a state that has been for the most part accomplished, it seems this is not a totally genuine assessment. Inside agencies and marketing organizations, people are still struggling to get it together and unleash great integrated work. We want to be there. But wanting does not make it so.

 We still compare notes every single quarter at conferences; I teach folks from companies still yearning for clarity; and between partner companies, we team up to deliver things for shared clients, while feeling the friction. While the talk of integration persists, many companies are still having a hard time realizing the objective of smooth integrated cross-channel marketing -- especially where teamwork is involved.



There are some truths that, when understood, can aid integration. But, when these are ignored or not genuinely grasped, the result will be awkward, hobbled plans on the buy side and value not properly leveraged on the sell side. And really frustrating conversations between parties will flare.

Integrate does not mean tacking on. This most rudimentary point of integration is still often violated. We've seen it most painfully on the digital proposition  -- as "online" is added as an afterthought to a publishing buy, or "doing a Facebook" page is spouted as the means to integrating social media.

Channel planning is not old-school. Now that the cross-channel environment is so mature and platforms within so varied, never has a step-back been so warranted. There's always a value to starting from a channel-agnostic position -- armed with consumer profile and insights, marketing objectives and potential thematics -- and then plotting the way. This will always be better than launching a plan on the bias of a single channel preference.

 The "divide and conquer" mentality can be perilous. This concept seems to have the ring of efficiency. But unless properly shared discovery and bandying about strategy have occurred, dividing and conquering may be the death of the integrated effort. I've seen this a lot in collaborative agency partnerships, where some quick conversation takes place and then comes the command: "OK, you guys go do that digital thing you do, and we'll map out the radio buy. We've got some ideas we're considering." What?

The ad man & the marketer. You'll know this dichotomy when you see it. You may find yourself in a planning conversation where both parties are present, yet don't seem to hear each other. One is speaking of big ideas and activating them; the other is speaking of driving insights, channel mechanics and measurability. Result: a disconnect on the overarching plan. Integration in this instance is largely a matter of translation. Someone's got to play that role to move the conversation, and the integration, forward. Maybe it's you.

Creative and media thrive in lock-step. Gone are the days when creative drives; gone are the days -- even though they were just yesterday -- when media drives. This relates to my point on conducting discovery in a very collaborative way, and to translation. It's all got to come together.

Our life's work is not static. On the landscape and within the mix, methodologies and media and technology marketplaces are not fixed in time and space; they all evolve. This may seem an obvious point, but it's not universally adaptive. Quality integrated teamwork is hard enough, but even harder when dealing with stale interpretations of options. Similarly, if we stay nestled in our own sub-industry sect -- digital ad sales; search marketing; email or affiliate marketing -- we may steam up our own glasses and lose sight of the broader scope and context. Specialization is useful when leveraged within the mix; dangerous when so surgically, narrowly applied.

These are a lot of truths to penetrate here. They are part organizational and planning philosophy, part communication, part commitment to keeping track of the evolution of opportunities -- and part sharing early and often. But I don't think any of us would have gotten into this business if we wanted to sit still, stay quiet and keep to ourselves.

2 comments about "The Restlessness Of Collaboration".
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  1. Ginger Daughtry from SF Media Resource, March 15, 2010 at 4:43 p.m.

    I had been struggling with this issue for my last three years in a traditional media department for a major agency. Stations showed up with presentations that involved both their offline and online properties - they would speak enthusiastically, we'd all brainstorm the possibilities, and after they left the idea would end up in a folder somewhere, because we didn't have the cross-over capabilities, and we sure as hell weren't turning it over to our digital colleagues (who, by the way, couldn't have handled the traditional aspect any better than we could the online). Insanity characterized by repeating the same actions with identical results.

    I'm now attempting this cross-over independent of an agency. Yet, not surprisingly, I'm finding that media people who have grown up with the Internet have a certain amount of suspicion and hostility around traditional media.

    Truly, can't we all "learn to get along?" TV, radio, and billboards aren't going away tomorrow, and digital keeps evolving. Advertisers and marketers need to realize we have to evolve as well.

  2. Kendall Allen Rockwell from WIT Strategy, March 15, 2010 at 10:08 p.m.

    I absolutely agree. The tone has to be set, the spirit fostered, communication facilitated from time to time. There are delicate and intangible aspects to all this. All the more, why I find emphatic, "Integration is yesterday; we are there..." sentiments so inattentive.

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