A Call To Return To Integrated Marketing

3 min read

These days, there sure are lots of different companies vying for little slices of marketing and communications budgets. There are the traditional advertising agencies, of course, although they do less than they used to. There are media buying companies and creative services companies and graphic design firms and public relations shops. All of these kinds of companies have been around for a while.

Then there are all the companies doing things related to marketing on the Internet. There are web designers, web developers, bloggers, content companies, SEO companies, SEM companies, social media specialists–I’ll stop there. Some companies do several of these things.

But who’s doing all of this stuff? Whatever happened to the full-service agency that provides everything from strategic planning to media analysis to television production to graphic design–and, here in the Internet Age, also develops web strategies, content, and smartphone apps, knows the ins and outs of search engine marketing, and socializes content on Facebook and Twitter?

Fifteen years ago, most ad agencies decided they didn’t need to be in the Internet business. The leaders of ad agencies didn’t understand technology and didn’t think they had to.

So they ceded websites to their clients’ IT departments. Perhaps they provided some consultation on messaging or brand standards, but they really couldn’t be bothered to learn a whole lot about Internet marketing.

As a result, most companies’ traditional marketing partners–their ad agencies–could no longer handle all of their marketing communications. They had to bring in Internet specialists, most of whom really didn’t know much about marketing.

Although the landscape keeps changing, this is still the situation we’re in today. Traditional ad agencies still don’t understand technology, and continue to see their business decline. Web shops–and that host of SEO, SEM, content, and social media micro-specialists–don’t really know much about traditional media and marketing. What used to be the purview of advertising agencies has become scattered and disconnected.

And that’s not good for clients who need to make sure all of their marketing efforts are working together.

We think it’s time for that to change.

A modern marketing firm must embrace both the traditional and the interactive sides of marketing communications. Most communications companies we encounter still don’t do much more than pay lip service to one or the other. Most ad agencies still don’t really understand how to develop web initiatives. Most interactive and social media shops don’t know how to buy or produce TV commercials.

As a result, lots of communications companies these days form “strategic partnerships.” Advertising types who don’t understand technology  feel safe partnering with a web shop that doesn’t understand advertising. Since neither really knows what the other does, their alliances are based on mutual ignorance.

Unfortunately for them, it’s all marketing, and it all has to work together. SEM is important not just for web marketing, but also for television advertising: if I see a TV spot and can’t find you on the web, you’ve wasted a lot of money.

It you’re a marketer, now’s the time to expect more from your outside marketing advisors, no matter what you call them. You need partners who understand the big picture and can coordinate all of your communications. You shouldn’t need a web partner that’s separate from your ad agency. And you certainly shouldn’t have to hire a separate SEM expert–any more than you should have to hire a recording studio or a TV producer or an illustrator. In other words, we understand the need for SEM experts, just as we understand the need for audio production experts. But hiring them and coordinating their work should be functions of your primary marketing advisor.

Ad agencies need to be more knowledgeable about strategic marketing on the Internet. Or interactive shops need to learn how to make and buy effective print ads. Something has to happen. Marketing has become increasingly fractured and needs to become integrated again.

That’s what we think, anyway. That’s our approach to our business. We think our clients deserve partners who are unwilling to abdicate responsibility to a bunch of sub-specialists. It’s all marketing. Time for our industry to step up and treat it that way.