Guest column: The Changing Face of Integration for Ad Agencies!

Note from Jim: Occasionally when I find someone with an original voice out there in the blogosphere, I allow guest columns on my blog.  Clive Maclean has one of those voices and puts direct marketing via the agency side into perspective for us.  Enjoy.

Over the past decade, in pursuit of that elusive “Integrated Agency Capability,” most agency acquisitions have been characterized by larger traditional agencies buying hot specialty shops, in those categories that they perceived a need. Recently, the tables appear to be turning as an established digital agency plans to acquire a hot advertising shop.

On June, 17 Reuters reported, “Sapient to buy ad agency, eyes traditional dollars.” They went on to say that Sapient (a technology, consulting & interactive company) was buying the Nitro Group for about $50 million, in a bid to spread its reach into the traditional advertising space.

According to Gaston Legorburu, Sapient’s Worldwide Creative Officer, this is the first time a large digital shop has gone the other way and acquired an above-the-line agency. The reason given being access to relationships with big brands and their traditional advertising dollars. This deal is expected in increase Sapient’s ability to become a one stop shop with the ability to deliver campaigns that run across the full media spectrum.

I believe that there may be many more of these transactions to come. Digital media and communications are truly at the forefront of marketing communications today. We have a whole generation of “Digital Natives” who really know no other life than their digital one. Now not unusual to see brands/products being launched through digital media and in certain instances exclusively through digital media.

The balance of power is changing and some of the strongest client/agency strategic relationships now lie within the digital agency. I don’t know about you, but I came up through the direct marketing channel, and one thing that still haunts me to this day, is the statement I used to hear so often from my brand agency counterparts, “Can you bolt on any tactics or executions to this campaign?”  My guess is that I will not be hearing this statement again in the foreseeable future.

What defines integration, how to best achieve it and how to optimize its effectiveness, continue to be moving targets. As technology develops, new media channels emerge and consumers evolve their media usage, client expectations from an agency for integrated marketing support changes.

Based on what I see, I am certain that digital, direct and database will continue to be the critical skills required within any integrated agency offering. Data and research playing a major role in assisting those agencies to find the key actionable insights required to deliver great, effective work.

In a recent meeting with Stan Rapp, he said that the old mass media era is being replaced by a new internet-dependent mass marketing era. In order to adapt and improve their bottom line, marketers need a new strategy that harnesses the power of the internet, direct marketing skills and data driven ROI. He calls it “iDirect”. If Stan is in fact right, and by the way he has demonstrated over the years that he often is then marketers will need a new type of integrated agency centered on those three disciplines.

Who knows, Sapient may be the agency to lead it?

About the guest author, Clive Maclean:

Clive is currently principle and founder of Clive Maclean Consulting. During his career he has founded no less than three separate agencies, all of which were subsequently sold to Grey, Leo Burnett and most recently FCB. One of them being the first specialist Interactive agency in Southern Africa, back in 1992.

He can be reached at:  Blog:

One thought on “Guest column: The Changing Face of Integration for Ad Agencies!

  1. Paul Welsh says:

    You comments make sense but only if your premise is that clients want “integration.” What I’ve witnessed for the past ten years is a total unbundling of purchased services by clients. Even if a particular agency has two of the services a client needsm they frequently don’t by both services from the same agency.

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