I recently had the privilege of attending a meeting with a major media company that spends millions of dollars each year developing content for print and online. This is an incredibly well respected organization that is internationally recognized. Yet, the meeting I attended marked the first time their interactive and traditional teams had ever sat across the same table from each other.
The meeting that ensued was extremely positive and promising. But it was amazing to think that, up until this point, there had been little to no interaction between the two divisions. This got me to thinking-- I've done my fair share of preaching the integrated marketing message for the last five years. Most of my marketing and advertising colleagues are echoing the same sentiment.
So why aren't more clients and agencies practicing what we're all preaching?
The way we were
To understand how things got the way they are it's a good idea to first take a look at where we've been. When online showed up on the collective radar, most businesses didn't understand how it fit into the big picture. The immediate reaction amongst agencies was to specialize, building separate teams or divisions that focused exclusively on interactive advertising.
On the client side, corporate brand remained high and mighty in its ivory tower-- interactive marketing teams were created, but they were isolated, given very little consideration and even less budget to work with.
What few realized at the time was that the internet would have the same monumental impact on marketing and advertising that television did 50 years before. As with television, interactive required team members with different skill sets-- and because clients and agencies alike didn't fully understand those skill sets, those team members were isolated. Silos were born, silos that in many cases are still in place today.
It's time to declare tornado season because success in the new world hinges on our ability to blow down these silos.
Shoot the elephant
When it comes to breaking down the barriers to integrated marketing, the elephant in the room that very few clients want to talk about is their financial incentive structure.
The way most clients' businesses have traditionally been structured, online and traditional marketing departments are separate entities and are rewarded separately for their individual successes. With no incentive in place to encourage integration, it's no wonder so many marketers are still working in their silos.
I say shoot the elephant. For any truly integrated marketing campaign to be successful, companies need to restructure their financial incentive plans. We have to take a macro look at the overall results of a campaign rather than a micro-view of individual components-- and financially reward the combined team for its integrated efforts.
Lose the attitude
It's no secret that the way businesses approach online has changed radically since the early days, when interactive marketing was the red-headed stepchild of the marketing family.
I remember years ago, one vice president of a major company asked me why everything their online division did always ended up looking like a slot machine. With a limited color palette and typefaces that would translate on the internet.
Back then, indeed, we were quite limited. With the advent of rich media, online video, Flash, et cetera, the work is starting to dazzle. After years of making do with the smallest slice of the budget pie, online is finally getting some well-deserved recognition.
With that recognition comes every other marketing department now wanting to get on the bandwagon. As a result, I've come across more than a few interactive departments on both the agency and client side with chips on their shoulders. There's an attitude out there that, "We're finally getting some recognition for what we've been doing for years, and now y'all want to jump on board."
Lose the attitude. It's all one brand. With enough legitimate barriers to integration already in place, there's no need for interactive marketing departments to build more.
Focus on the idea, not who owns it
Back in the day, big ideas came from corporate brand. Traditional advertising came up with the campaign, and everyone else figured out how to re-purpose the content.
That's not the case any more. Great ideas can come from all over. Everyone needs to stop worrying about who owns an idea and instead focus their efforts on supporting great ideas.
When you are planning your campaign strategies, make sure you take all the mediums into consideration. I cannot believe how much time and money is wasted reworking the same content-- content that, with a little foresight and planning, could be designed up-front to be used across multiple mediums.
Don't forget that clients are producing content in-house. Agency and media partners should walk hand in hand with the internal teams to cover all of the bases.
Will it work in a game, will it be viral, will it entertain, or will it inform? These are the questions (and subsequent budgets) that need to be established up front.
Pay attention to what your colleagues are doing. Meet with them. Engage in dialogue. Listen to their ideas-- and when you come across a great one, figure out how you can support it.
Use your data
Data is the bane and boon of the interactive world. It gives you the ability to precisely track how customers are interacting with your brand. But on the flip side, there's so much data out there that many businesses are having a difficult time figuring out what to do with it. Silos remain in place because people are overwhelmed; they can't drill down, and they simply don't know how to use their data to make actionable decisions.
Being able to quickly test based on your data is the best way to find the pearls. Use the web as the center of your strategy. It's an incredibly efficient way to find out what does and doesn't work. If your strategy fails, you can quickly pull the plug or modify components before the costs add up. If it works, you have a solid basis for making more expensive print, television and other decisions.
I look back at when my agency started doing interactive work. I was consistently told that we had to specialize, that our focus was too broad, and that there was no way we were going to be able to keep up with the other disciplines.
I was lucky to work with clients and colleagues who, from the get-go, saw the potential for integration. I'll be the first to say it hasn't been smooth sailing. But the payoff has been huge.
Keeping a broad perspective has helped us create truly seamless campaigns that carry a single message across all channels and can be measured at a customer level. That's the promise of integration. And it's a generous reward for both clients and agencies that are bold enough to withstand the tornadoes and break down the silos.
Gay Warren Gaddis is president and CEO of T3 (The Think Tank). Read full bio.