Gordon Tempest-Hay, Blue Rubicon: It's time to dissolve the agency fiefdoms

The marcoms industry seems designed to prevent integration, to the detriment of the client.

Gordon Tempest-Hay, Blue Rubicon: It's time to dissolve the agency fiefdoms
Gordon Tempest-Hay, Blue Rubicon: It's time to dissolve the agency fiefdoms

In some respects, the fact that there is still a need for a publication on the power of integrated comms is a sad affair. No consumer puts themselves in a silo designed to receive channel-specific comms, yet the marcoms industry - both client and agency side - persists in dividing expertise by discipline and driving a wedge through the very concept of integration.

For example, it is not uncommon on the client side for PR to sit in the comms department. Public affairs is in the government and/or legal affairs department, internal comms in HR and most other comms disciplines such as advertising, digital and DM are in marketing. Fiefdoms develop. Individual agendas drive separation.

Agency-side is worse. Most agencies specialise in a particular channel then sub-divide that channel further. PR is sub-divided into corporate, consumer, content and b2b; or by industry sector or skill set. Each division is then given its own P&L targets against which that team is incentivised. It is hard to imagine a structure better designed to work against integration.

I know of one client that gave a multi-million pound account to a major agency then sacked it some months later when the internal battles over the budget were so vicious that the agency was unable to form an integrated team to meet the client's needs. I know of a senior practitioner who joined one of the biggest names in our industry, introduced himself to his fellow divisional leads and raised the prospect of integration only to hear: 'Why would I share my P&L with you?'

In reality, the entire marcoms industry, notably PR, is channel-driven, not audienceor client-led. At Blue Rubicon we have never had any divisions, practices or silos. Our philosophical approach is that everything we do should be audience-led and integrated, be that through the marketing mix with partner agencies or, at very least, by providing everything that PR, social and digital have to offer from one team working toward the client's goal.

Sound obvious? Of course it is. And yet it's not the norm. The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising recently published a guide on the changing face of integration. It says integration is evolving into orchestration, in which campaigns move away from one piece of creative applied across multiple channels to creative diversity as befits different channels (albeit rooted in a single, shared brand idea). Whatever the model, one conclusion from the report is clear: multi-channel campaigns are more effective than single-channel ones. I believe that to be equally relevant to the way organisations operate and are structured.

So, let's set out a new manifesto for our industry.

Let's always be audience-led not channel-driven. Let's always create the best mix for the client's needs, not have a response defined by silos or pursuit of a P&L target. Let's always have the full weight of PR, social, digital and content applied to every challenge. And, when there is potential, let's look to other disciplines to orchestrate an even more powerful response, the like of which no single channel or silo could ever deliver.

You never know, we might just deliver great work in the process.

Gordon Tempest-Hay is CEO at Blue Rubicon.

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