The integrated myth

We’ve all been throwing around the idea of ‘integrated agencies’ for the last few years now. And by throwing, I mean seriously lobbing it at every potential client and brand to make sure we close the deal and nab the sale. There isn’t an ad agency worth their salt now who would dream of being anything but integrated, and so the natural thing to do is put it in some beautiful copy on the website, integrate it into our pitches (pun absolutely indented) and pat ourselves on the back for staying ‘current and relevant’, or whatever other wanky term the industry is using at this particular moment to communicate just how hip and trendy they truly are.

But the problem with throwing around terms like this is that they start to lose their meaning, and because everyone is using them, they often take on new meanings or they evolve and become something completely different from their original purpose. They basically become a sort of myth. Something passed along by many people that slowly changes over the years.

Which is exactly what’s happened to the idea of an integrated agency. Today it means an agency with huge capabilities across various different channels. For example, a mass retail campaign can require the creative team to brainstorm concepts, researchers to gather information on current spending habits of consumers, an UX designer to lay out the email templates, a social strategist to put together how it will be distributed across social platforms, a writer to create the copy, a videographer to edit the visual elements, a designer to make the copy look compelling and a project manager to bring it all together. That’s a lot of hands on deck and something integrated agencies can provide, and yeah, it all sounds pretty seamless and great.

Except the vital ingredient that we’re all missing is that integrated marketing agencies are a way of working together to fulfil the needs of the client, rather than how many creatives you have on your payroll under one roof. There’s no point in advertising to brands that you can do everything if it doesn’t join up along the way.

We are an agency that has an integrated output, but by that we mean we offer the right solutions for brands, even when they don’t know what that looks like. We try to avoid brands coming to us telling us they want a TV add or a social campaign. There’s no point in that and it’s a waste of our experience. Instead, we want brands to come to us with their problem, that’s all. Tell us your aches and pains and where it hurts, and it’s our job to use an integrated methodology to find the answers. Agencies today will lose their foothold in the industry if they can’t fix problems, because no matter how great the ad was, or how many retweets it got, if it doesn’t convert to basket sales there’s an issue there. It’s our job to run through a creative process, across every damn platform and channel that we can, to find answers and increase revenue, as opposed to blindly accepting what clients want. Naturally, that is not us saying go to war with your clients, definitely don’t do that, but we should be questioning, prodding, poking and peeling apart what they think they want, to find out what they really need. That’s our job. It’s why we exist.

‘I want it all, and I want it now’

When Freddie Mercury stood there in his tight, leaving nothing to the imagination trousers and feathered jacket screaming about wanting it all, he was basically predicting the future. He knew. We always knew the man was revolutionary, but he knew that the generation that was about to come out of the drunken mistakes of the 70s would want everything, day or night.

Which leads us to the screaming demands of today’s consumers who want to access entertainment, food and drink around the clock. The world is changing dramatically and the way we live, operate, eat and consume has changed dramatically. No one is going home at seven o’clock to sit around one television set and go to bed by ten. Realistically, we’re still in the office at seven and we’re meeting our friends at nine, to grab a table at ten to go for after dinner drinks at twelve and this is just a Wednesday. Add in the night tube, Deliveroo and Uber, and it’s easy to get around and access late night venues.

So naturally because the world changes, it’s up to brands to change and adapt with the world, except traditionally they haven’t been very good at that.

Brands like to cling to the past

Not all brands are guilty of this, but many are. Logos are associated with tradition and change is scary. But in a world that has changed so dramatically from even five years ago, it’s obvious that brands can’t afford to stay the same. They’re fighting for survival here and it’s up to the agencies that work with them to guide them through those changes.

Understand the world

Connecting a brand with an audience comes down to understanding your audience. It’s advertising 101. Something Pepsi widely misjudged, but let’s not even go down that rabbit hole. The point is, if you want to talk to a group of individuals, learn how they operate and where they get their kicks. Once upon a time the only options for the majority were getting pissed down the local pub and then hitting the nightclubs before grabbing some cheesy chips and a dirty donor on your way home. Which is not to say there’s anything wrong with a dirty donor, there absolutely isn’t, but that scene isn’t for everyone. Now we have tea houses open until 1am so you can sit around drinking battenberg flavour rooibos while playing scrabble. Or people prefer to do their drinking during the day at festivals or in the park. And food has become way more important and we’re all busy finding popups and food markets and good restaurants, because a donor and chips no longer cuts it.

Have no fear

While it seems like a scary time for brands, it’s actually a wonderful opportunity. The world is opening up which means capitalism is doing its thing, but it also means we’re spending more time drinking and eating and engaging with brands. The statistics show that the melding of day and night economies is only set to rise massively and it’s now a case of losing your business and becoming a dinosaur, or evolving with the world.

It’s time for brands to start thinking about how they make themselves available around the clock, and how they fit into the lives of consumers today, and any agency working with brands should be leading this charge, day or night.

Be a chef not a waiter!

First off, we’d like to confirm that no waiters were hurt in the making of this blog and we really do love waiters, so please don’t spit in our food.

Secondly, our gripe is not with waiters at all, but instead the idea of the ‘yes man’. The idea of saying and doing whatever someone asks, even if it’s not the right thing. The ridiculous notion of insipid compliance without standing up for what you believe in. The absurd belief *mounts high horse* that you don’t have any value to add. We could go on (really we could), however, we’ll dismount here for a second before the fanfare starts.

Our point, is merely that we live in a highly specialised world. A world of verticals and niche markets. A world of consultants and specialists. We’ve moved away from the ‘jack of all trades’ mentality and embraced an ‘inch wide, mile deep’ methodology. In short, people want to hire an expert.

We come across too many clients who have hired an expert and instead of a seasoned chef they get a nodding waiter and they’re understandably frustrated by it. There is an assumption that just like the customer in a restaurant, the client is always right. While brands have their own creativity, vision and input, they’ve also outsourced their advertising to agencies so they can broaden their perspective and have an industry expert nurture them in the market.

HOWEVER, let us also just take this moment to caveat that we do not advocate agencies sticking their finger up to their client and doing whatever they want, regardless of their opinion or input. That won’t get you anywhere my friend. To a certain extent you need to be a waiter, but brands and businesses want a chef. Someone who understands the components of mixing flavours and has the creativity to advise outside conventional routes. Someone who’s not going to be scared to suggest insane things like hot ice cream. (We still don’t know how that works but Heston swears by it). Someone who can mix ingredients to achieve the client’s goals and has the right training, learning, and skills behind them.

There is no value in nodding along just to keep clients happy, and in fact, clients don’t want that. You need to have the courage to challenge, discover and develop ideas alongside clients. Don’t just be the ‘yes man’, no one likes that guy.