Integration Can Break The Social Media Obsession

Mark RitsonDecember 28, 20152694 min

OK, I have to be honest. I had never heard of R3. Apparently in its day job R3 helps companies maximize their agency reviews, remunerations and relationships – hence the name. I have no idea if it is any good at any of those tasks, but it surely has done every marketer a favor with its report on marketing communications.

Entitled “Integration 40”, the report has sifted through the various big brand campaigns of the last 12 months and selected the forty that it believes represent the very best in integration. As R3 themselves accept at the outset of the report, integration means many different things in marketing these days. But its team have done a skillful job of looking across global campaigns to opt for those that demonstrate both the right process for integration and, ultimately, the most impressive results.

I am particularly passionate about integration because I believe it is the only way we can get out of the current social-media obsession with the least amount of egg on our disciplinary faces. While it’s clear that the whole raft of social media tools that have emerged in recent years augment and extend our marketing toolkit, only a moron would isolate them at the expense of the bigger strategic picture and the other equally appealing tools of the trade. It appears our discipline has forgotten pretty much everything it should have learned during the communications tussles of yesteryear.

Twenty years ago, for example, was a fascinating period in marketing history. The traditional commission based models of advertising remuneration were breaking down and forcing many to question TV advertising’s hegemonic control over most big brands. Meanwhile the PR industry was flexing its muscles and attempting to assert its place as a genuine contender for client investment. At the same time, the era of direct marketing had ushered in a range of effective tools that could not only prove their worth but did so with almost immediate ROI calculations. Finally, sales promotions had begun to demonstrate the power of a simple discount versus fluffy above the line approaches.

Just when it looked like it was going to get very messy, a bunch of smart Americans – most notably Professor Don Schultz from Northwestern University – started to build a new school of communications planning that became known as “IMC” or Integrated Marketing. IMC was cool stuff because it started to espouse genuinely interesting models for marketing planning like zero based budgeting and media neutrality that could end the internecine battles driving clients to distraction and provide a path to better marketing communications.

But before you knew it the Internet arrived and everything went a bit mental again. Then came search and social and it got even more crazy. Marketers became obsessed with tactics rather than strategy and the broader drivers of communication success. Run a Google search for “Integrated Marketing Communications” these days and you get a bunch of MBA courses and a lot of book chapters. In other words it never really bit into managerial communications planning practice.

Until now. The reason R3’s report make’s me so happy is that it seems to have literally taken up where Schultz and his colleagues left off. The report presents a complex and very nuanced overview of what drives the most impactful integrated campaigns. Yes you need a big idea. But equally important you need a structure to enable great campaign design to work.

In R3’s analysis of the forty best examples it spies six different alternative approaches to integration success (below). No one model necessarily spells strategic success but a lack of clarity on what model the client and agency are applying, and indeed who is in charge of the integration process spells disaster.

R3 Six Models Of Integration

For R3 the ingredients for success are simple. Make sure your marketing team is well trained even if that means spending up to 10% of your budget each year to get there. You need a big idea more than ever to drive and integrate the disparate executional elements. Then you need the right process with clarity of roles and responsibility. Put the right incentives in place and you have a recipe for long term communication success and, equally important, an answer to the social-media-solves-everything stupidity that currently haunts our profession.

This thought piece is featured courtesy of Marketing Week, the United Kingdom’s leading marketing publication.

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