An integrated marketing approach is as necessary as ever, but the old model of 360-degree marketing simply points out the channels. It doesn't offer an approach for working cross-platform.
Enter the "campaign ecosystem," a new way of thinking about integrated marketing. Campaign ecosystems still revolve around media-driven campaign planning. However, rather than prioritizing the largest media spend, a campaign ecosystem prioritizes a creative concept born of a company’s engaging activity. As each company must act in its own distinct way, every campaign ecosystem is unique to a brand and its messaging.
Weber Shandwick's chief creative officer, Josh Rose, recently spoke with iMedia about the ways in which the industry's approach to integrated marketing needs to shift. Let's learn more about the campaign ecosystem, and how it can reinvent your approach to marketing.
iMedia: At Weber Shandwick, you take a novel marketing approach that you call "campaign ecosystems." How does that differ from how marketers typically think of campaigns?
Josh Rose: The typical way of thinking about integrated marketing is through a 360 plan. That’s the language that has been used for a few decades now, and it connotes the kind of work that ensures everything is working together. The problem is that everyone in the industry does it the same way -- which is to create a single piece of marketing that informs all the other pieces. And I think if we’re being extremely honest about it, that piece of marketing is a script.
I watched this go down first hand for 10 years, and I will say, it has its advantages. A short piece of film has a way of conveying certain brand attributes that no other form of communications can, so it’s a natural to sit at the center of that 360. The downside is that marketing has evolved so much that a single expression of that nature simply can't inform enough other marketing channels to be as effective as it used to be. How does a TV script tell me what to do with employee engagement? Or social strategy? A lot of marketing elements are left to figure themselves out on their own in your typical 360.
In my experience, the thing that CAN inform all aspects of a marketing plan is a Brand Act. That is, something an organization does that doesn’t just talk about what they stand for, but actually physically does something about it. When I work with organizations now, it starts there. This means we can discuss their stakeholders first; employee engagement is a key part of it, and it puts more emphasis on the brand and product insights, which have often taken a back seat to the audience insights.
It’s an ecosystem because when you start with the Brand Act, the way you engage other channels are all dependent on that act. And different acts create different kinds of content. So, the act itself creates its own ecosystem. A speaker series is different than a product shift is different than a new flagship store is different than a new role within the organization is different than a new CSR effort, all of which are acts that can get people to think differently about a company’s brand. So, we will develop the ecosystem that best supports the act. It’s a bit more complicated -- but so is marketing today.
At the same time, it’s still a campaign. So we can still use the same metrics to measure the effectiveness of any marketing campaign over time.
In your opinion, what is the single greatest threat facing agencies -- both PR and marketing, given that Weber Shandwick plays in both arenas -- today? And how has Weber Shandwick positioned itself to combat this challenge?
The intelligence of our clients is the biggest threat we face. Many agency folks are going client-side and bringing with them a ton of expertise. This means that, at best, a CMO is perfectly capable of dividing up responsibilities among many agencies (and many of them best-in-class boutiques) and acting as the galvanizing voice of the brand. But at worst (for agencies), it means that things are just getting brought in-house entirely.
To anyone out there who still believes that their expertise at the agency is critical to a brand, there’s one question that deserves to be considered: What if they just hired you? It’s happening all over the place. I can point to a number of my peers from the agency world now working at places like Activision, Apple, Facebook, and more. And they certainly didn’t turn stupid the day after they left the agency world.
In your opinion, what agency value is most commonly overlooked by brand clients today?
When I first went to the agency side, it was in digital pure-play agencies. Then I went to an ad agency and did integrated creative development within that world for 10 years, and now I’m doing it in a PR agency. The through line value that has been true since I first started is that an agency is more tied to culture. The agency tends to go deeper into the channels and unique consumer behaviors than a client ever would, as it’s just not their core business.
Different agencies will claim different ties in different ways, but it’s always some form of “knowing how to reach the audience.” For some, that’s creative. For others, it’s how to pitch a story to media. And then, of course, the ability to reach people in newer media channels, like social, is a specialty. And some agencies, like ours, will do all of that and more.
Along these lines, if you could give all brands one piece of advice about better leveraging agency resources, what would it be?
More work sessions between agency and brand. I think our industry is too presentation-based. It leans into an issue of people loving to hear themselves talk, and then expecting that to be the final word. If agencies and brands went into every meeting as though it were a work session where both sides needed to contribute, it would change everyone’s lives.
What recent work coming out of Weber Shandwick embodies the unique value it brings to clients? What work from the past year makes you proudest and why?
Maybe because of the political environment we’re in today, but I’m reminded of the work we did to launch the Affordable Care Act, nationally but most prominently in California. That work had so much to accomplish -- nobody had heard of the exchanges at that point, and there was a huge movement to confuse and discourage the general population. We tackled the messaging from every touch point, including on the ground with counselors. But what we really did is let people who felt left out of the system feel included, for the first time. It was great to be a part of, but it’s also the kind of work that I feel like we are especially equipped to handle, as the agency has deep policy backgrounds, built-in multicultural expertise, and a great understanding of how to reach people where they are.
More recently, the work we did with Abbott to get one of the world’s largest health care product companies’ values out to the world was a great integrated effort that was all about a brand and agency coming together to accomplish a goal. We literally went around the world together to create some very unique and touching content.