Mag Campaigns: Integrated Efforts Lag, Blame Shared

Boca Raton, FL--Media agencies are still struggling to produce integrated marketing efforts, a panel of industry heavies agreed during a panel discussion on Monday at the American Magazine Conference--although there's plenty of blame to go around, including vendors and clients.

Representing the agencies, Donna Speciale--president for investment and activation at MediaVest USA--evinced pride in her company's moves toward integration, while conceding that at an industry level, "we're nowhere near where we need to be."

Within media agencies, responsibilities are still often divided into fiefdoms. External to the media agencies, she opined, "the most difficult part of this process is getting creative and media to play together." Ideally, "we can place the consumer at the center, and everything will radiate out from there."

Moderator Jonah Bloom, the editor of Ad Age, coaxed the various speakers into a round of polite finger-pointing.

Her fellow panelists agreed--but seemed to lay most of the blame on the media agencies themselves, noting that logically it falls within their purview. Brian Perkins, vice president of corporate affairs for Johnson & Johnson, said: "When our creatives go off and think about a new campaign, they're not thinking about publishers. They need ideas from media agencies, because media is a creative function. And it's kind of hard to do if the agencies are split."

In the U.S., Perkins said Johnson & Johnson relies on communications planners like Naked Communications and Sandbox Communications to bring agencies and platforms together.

Deirdre Bigley, vice president of worldwide advertising and interactive for IBM, echoed Perkins: "The hardest part is getting media and creatives together. But the best ideas we've ever done were where creative and media teams come together very early in the process." Bigley revealed that because of structural obstacles, IBM can "knock off at most one or two of these a year," holding out the hope of "maybe four" in 2008.

Johnson & Johnson's Perkins also had some frank criticism for the client side: "I would give us a low grade. The consumer is way ahead of us" in terms of embracing new media possibilities. Pointing to "pockets of excellence"--like the company's Neutrogena and Accuvue properties--he said J&J is creating "brand stewards," responsible for coordinating advertising, promotion, and marketing. But the process has been slow and its effects uneven.

Still, progress is being made, according to Scott Neslund, CEO of Mindshare Interactive. Neslund recalled that a decade ago, to many clients, publishers and media agencies, "integrated marketing" meant "discounts on buys across different media." Now, all three players have embraced the idea of strategic coordination of media and other promotional channels.

However, the panel gave mixed marks to magazine publishers, with Speciale noting that "publishing is a little behind here."

Foremost, she urged publishers to break down the editorial barriers to media plans involving magazine content. "The broadcast end had to do it; publishing feels the same way with editorial--this is their prized possession. But we're going to have to break the barriers, because we're not going to be able to create these integrated programs if we don't."

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