A few of our clients have as many as six different marketing service/advertising agencies working for them concurrently. A creative agency, a PR agency, a digital agency, a social media agency, a media buying agency, and a promotion agency would make a typical client marketing six-pack.
We’ve always known how important it is to do our best when it comes to inter-agency collaboration as the objective is always the same – help improve the business of our clients. I frequently question the logic of this individual ‘component’ approach. The client has to spend valuable time managing these multiple relationships and keeping all parties apprised of what are the moment to moment changes in its business cannot possibly be the most efficient way to operate. Technology can help, but only to a certain degree. It reminds me of how people bought stereo equipment in the 1970’s.
In the ‘70s the best way (and “only way” if you talked to my college roommates) to put together a killer sound system was to purchase a separate pre-amplifier, amplifier, turntable, tuner, graphic equalizer, cassette deck, and humongous hi-fidelity speakers with a bass boost. The components would be purchased at various outlets and were mixed and matched. Names like Fisher, Sony, Kenwood and Pioneer were common to be found. A fully integrated system from one manufacturer simply did not offer the best possible experience. In those days having a system with ‘clean-power’, meaning being able to play at ridiculous volumes with perfect fidelity was paramount.
But over the years the advantages of a dis-integrated system began to fade away and today it’s rare to see multiple devices employed to deliver an optimal listening experience. Marketing service companies and advertising agencies used to be generalists. This is keeping in mind that before television came along, marrying creative and media in print, radio and outdoor advertising was standard. In AMC’s MadMen which is in its final season, the year is 1969 and in-agency conversations have media and creative working together – maybe not always closely but on the same client business.
The 1980’s saw the explosive growth of specialized agencies. The huge increase in media spending made media-buying only agencies businesses unto themselves. The general idea being that the collective buying power of a big media agency offered clients less expensive rates. Of course nothing is ever mentioned as to whether those agencies are buying the lowest cost inventory to drive down the CPM, or if their media buys truly reach the target audience independent of the CPM. Cheap isn’t always better
There is a need for generalists in marketing. Agencies need not know how to do every single thing in marketing themselves in order to make recommendations on creating fully integrated marketing campaigns and programs. But we all know people and companies that have great experience and success in individual marketing disciplines. Agencies don’t need to have ten web coders sitting next to us in order to put together a digital campaign any more than clients need to have a sandbox full of agencies in order to feel there are proper checks and balances. I don’t think that makes the power any cleaner. Do you?