Scotland has witnessed a meeting of minds over recent years – as the marketing landscape has shifted so too have the industry’s names and faces. Agencies have been taking stock, looking at what they’re offering and targeting areas for growth. This has seen a number of agencies either joining forces or hiring specialists to add new areas of expertise to their armoury of services.
Over the last few months alone, the industry has noticed an increased push, building on this trend. The activity has been relentless.
A number of agencies in Scotland have successfully worked an integrated model for years, operating across a full range of marketing disciplines.
However, more and more of Scotland’s agencies are following suit as the focused pursuit of client budgets intensifies.
“Integration has become so popular as it makes commercial sense,” says Peter Clayton, group managing director of Clayton Graham Communications. “But only on the condition that the agency has bespoke resources for each area requiring integration.
“The market is tight so some agencies are embarking on a budget ‘land-grab’ so their revenue remains the same. There are no barriers to entry, so some just say that they offer integration. It never ceases to amaze me when you stand outside a small agency and their list of services on the board is about three miles long. Where are the staff to undertake all those services?
“We have offered an integrated service for several years. But now everyone is fighting for an increased share of a budget, and offering a larger range of services provides more than one route to a client. This is like the honeymoon period for media independents where the traditional agency defended their own in-house media buying due to having a hidden profit protection. Through time this became indefensible. The same is true of integration. Agencies playing at it will get caught. The others will benefit.”
Simon MacQuarrie, partner and managing director, Red Cell Scotland, agrees: “It would be extremely unwise for an agency to advise a client that they can provide a specialist in-house service that they can’t deliver.
“Integration is about understanding the journey the customer makes to reach the brand and the role that marketing communications play in this. What we need to do is put together a communications plan that addresses these marketing metrics and routes to market, in order to deliver the essence of the brand to the customer at every point of contact. We’re part of WPP’s global Red Cell network and being able to access WPP’s massive resource is a significant benefit to us and ultimately, our clients. Ultimately, it’s an issue of client confidence in their agency being able to provide the range of services they require.”
Chris Wallace, managing director of Barkers also believes that true integration should be about adding value to a client, not about trying to add value to the agency.
“There has been a tendency for advertising agencies to bring together different aspects of their discipline and suggest that they are an integrated marketing agency,” he says. “True integration comes from bringing together different disciplines in a way that adds value.
“There are a lot of great Scottish agencies out there adapting and delivering the service that their client wants. Lets face it, all of us are here to serve the client’s need. If integration is what is called for, then agencies are right to be offering what the client wants.
“Sometimes a client will want you to handle the integration and sometimes they want to manage it themselves. Either way, the proof is always going to be in the delivery.
“Integration is now a guiding principle in marketing campaigns. In recent times more clients have expected integration to be managed within the marketing agency. However there is no definite right and wrong. I am sure things could change again with a next wave of marketing managers who might want to manage the integration.”
“The fragmentation of the market together with market share being squeezed results in agencies turning to a wider service offering,” continues Ian Ord, director of business development at Fifth Ring Integrated Corporate Communications. “Survival and self-protection are key motivators for such business decisions. Added to which clients are increasingly wiser about multi-channel marketing and recognise the brand building benefits that can be efficiently deployed by the one agency. Clients know that every interface has a cost; lesser interface, lesser costs. Simple.
“We employ the best professionals for each of the disciplines we offer. We benchmark ourselves against the industry’s best and often pitch against them. We’re not in danger of being seen as a Jack-of-all-Trades, as clients know and understand the benefit of the holistic approach – an approach which is being duplicated in our Dubai office where the integrated approach is very much in its infancy. Integrated corporate communications is not a new term, we have embedded the very nature of this discipline in every working practice and, to this end, both staff and clients benefit.”
The merger of agencies to form integrated groups is something that we will continue to see, says 1576’s managing director David Reid. “There hasn’t been too much of it in Scotland yet, but I suppose a good example would be our bringing on board Carnegie Worldwide Sponsorship and Events into 1576.
“This wasn’t a necessity for us or our clients, but it was an opportunity. It is a simple matter of fact that as soon as the deal was announced, three of our existing clients gave Fife Hyland and his team sponsorship briefs to work on. If a client trusts an agency and has an established relationship, I think they are far more likely to give them a chance to increase their involvement with their business.
“It comes down to the choice of the individual client. There will be lots of clients who are uncomfortable about putting more of their eggs in one basket and other who are happy to. All we can do as an integrated company is offer them the choice. If the relationship is strong and successful from the outset, then we have an opportunity to show them how we can shine in other areas and increase our relevance to their brand.
“The Integrated agency is more relevant than ever, but that comes with a massive caveat. There are integrated agencies that excel in one discipline but are completely average in another. To me that’s not integration, it is only offering convenience. At 1576 we believe that if we can’t offer a service that isn’t at least as good – if not better – than you’ll find anywhere else, then we are not interested in providing it.”
Peter Clayton says that the industry has perhaps over-promised, and it is only now that are we seeing genuine integrated agencies being able to deliver what they have always said they could. “Budget ‘land-grab’ practitioners devalue the integration promise. Equally, those that do not have bespoke resource across all areas will become Jacks-of-all-trades.”
But Sue Mullen, managing director of Story suggests that the term integration is very much misunderstood and often overused. “We view ourselves less as an integrated agency and more an ‘engagement’ agency.
“It is clients that drive change. The fight for an increased share of a budget, and a route to the client has driven some agencies to call or position themselves in the integrated arena. Increasingly clients are appointing bigger groups and doing so via their procurement departments. Survival is about expansion in this environment.
“It comes down to the quality of work the agency is producing. Like everything in life some people are better at it than others.”