Integrated agencies

By The Drum, Administrator

July 27, 2006 | 7 min read

It has, on many occasions, been claimed that the industry’s drive to offer a fully integrated service for clients has been agency driven. With accounts becoming harder to win and budgets fragmenting across a wider spectrum of disciplines, communications agencies have been building their skills and bringing in new expertise to try and capture business as it migrates across the widening communications terrain.

However, despite the rise of the integrated agency being sometimes labelled as an exercise in land-grab, in appears that clients are now warming to the trend.

Atholl Duncan, head of communications at Scottish Water, who has developed an integrated relationship with Barkers, believes that the understanding that is developed by an integrated agency of a company’s business, through working in several sections of the business, is key.

“For particular campaigns that we undertake, it’s time and cost efficient to be able to get all the services from the one organisation, especially if that organisation has the knowledge of what you are trying to communicate,” he says.

Paul Buchanan, of Zonal Systems – one of the UK suppliers of electronic point of sale terminals – has used Graphic Partners for a wide range of communications services and says that the relationship formed between client and integrated agency is one of trust: “It’s quite personal, we know the agency really well and they’ve formed a really good relationship with us,” he says. “It helps build confidence in that they are going to make sure they know everything before they start creating. There’s confidence in their abilities and the fact that they’ve done their background work means that they get things right first time. At the end of the day, we trust them.”

However, Paul Race, director of global marketing communications at NCR Financial Systems, who uses Hookson to devise and execute a full range of communications, says that the capability to look across several means of media is why they choose the integrated approach: “The single biggest advantage is that when our agency is developing the creative idea they look at the application of that idea across all possible channels. There are sometimes ideas that are fantastic for one channel, say print advertising, that wouldn’t work when you try and extend them to the web or other pieces of marketing collateral. ”

Pauline Dale, marketing director of golf clothing manufacturer Proquip, has built up a strong integrated relationship with GRP. And while trust remains a strong pulling factor in the use of an integrated agency, time management is another important element of the appointment.

“Appointing an agency to work for you across-the-board is a time-saving thing – but you can only do it if you fully trust them,” she says. “From web design to media buying, I trust my agency and they know what I want. They know the brand. We’ve worked with GRP a long time now, and they haven’t just chucked an account manager at us and given us a creative. We sit down at meetings and we tell them about our business. It’s quite a small company so I need to be able to rely on people that can give me the right advice, as I simply don’t have the time to look into everything myself.

“It’s not the cost factor, as I don’t think it works out any cheaper, it’s that they have such a great knowledge of our brand and that everything is consistent.”

Sharon Cameron, brand manager of Scottish and Southern Energy, believes integrated agencies’ strength is planning. “The benefit ultimately is that you get more of a developed result from an integrated agency because they can be involved with you at the strategic planning stages or the product development,” she says. “The fact that they get that insight and that they are involved in the early stages, allows for a better follow-through and a more effective result long-term. It’s fair to say though that integrated agencies have a purpose for particular accounts and particular campaigns. It’s not necessarily the case for everything that you do, but certainly for high level campaign planning and developing new brand personalities or the launch of new products or above-the-line initiatives, then integrated teams definitely have their advantages.”

Cameron works with Story across a range of service and she believes the biggest benefit is the consistency of working with the same people as well as the fact that they are then getting a true insight into your business. “They gain a total understanding of what it is that makes the business tick. Ultimately if an agency has got that understanding of your business then you would expect the output to be more concurrent with what your expectations are.”

Iain Weir, head of marketing for Macleod Distillers – producers of the Glengoyne Malts – works across a range of disciplines with Graphic Partners. He also feels that the relationship is the most important driver, however, he admits there is a value-for-money consideration too when working with an integrated agency: “I suppose it could well be that when you’re integrating with the one supplier that you look at some economy scale in cost. You’re bring more business to them, so you’re expecting a better deal. You also expect better customer service in that you’re a bigger customer. That you do get better economies of scale and that you get a heightened service are the reasons why there’s a trend towards integration, and I think that people will be thinking similarly to ourselves in looking for that continuity in their message. If you can get everything, including quality and service, under one umbrella then why not?”

Linda Dunion, campaign director of See Me, which challenges the negative stigma of mental illness, launched the body in 2002 with the aid of IAS Smarts: “When I was starting up See Me, I was practically on my own,” says Dunion. “I was looking effectively for a one-stop shop. I recognised that wouldn’t necessarily be a single agency which had everything under one roof, but what I did need was to find a company that could offer as much as possible, but would certainly be an effective gateway for me to access an integrated service.

“It [working with IAS Smarts] really has enabled us to operate in a way which we couldn’t otherwise. Our remit is to aim at the attitude of the general public and to do that we have to use all sorts of different mechanisms. At the beginning we looked at doing absolutely everything from coming up with the name, the brand, the identity of the campaign, producing material, advertising, developing the website, all of these things had to be done. Many of these have to be developed simultaneously and IAS Smarts obviously offers the research monitoring and tracking. They were very heavily involved in the development of the campaign which we spent ten months doing.”

Mark Fowlestone, director of Multiply, believes that integration, as well as the long-term understanding that it creates, can also be about speed to market:

“Today everything moves so fast; faster than most of us can keep up with!” he says. “We have to gear ourselves up to thinking fast, creating in a flash and getting to market in rapid time. For an agency to survive it needs to be able to offer clients a large array of capabilities to meet their constantly changing demands.”


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