Calling for integrated people--and yes, that's a real thing

Integration is one of the biggest buzzwords in marketing. But talking about it is much easier than doing it.

We all know what integrated work looks like when it’s out in the world: work that has tentacles reaching into mobile, digital, television, PR, activation, and whatever new sector of the business is evolving as we speak (as long as it’s right for the brief).

You know what qualifies for the "integrated" label when you see it; Grey has its own examples, from Gun Shop to Volvo Interception, and so do many of you. For any agency, it looks so easy, so natural, and so seamless—after it’s done.

However, the "during" is incredibly difficult because making work like this is not just about mastering a bunch of different silos and sewing them together. It’s not just about coordinating technology or channels. We’ve all created and circulated various proprietary integration processes over time and been handed organizational charts for what integration "looks like." Our industry stresses the need for integration and celebrates its success, but rarely do we hear about how to actually achieve it on a personal level, instead of a structural level.

What doesn’t get addressed is that success comes not from integrated process, but rather integrated people. And if integrated work is created by integrated people, those people must have clear, defining behaviors. In identifying and rewarding integrated players, here’s what I’ve noticed about how integrated people work.

Integrated people check their egos at the door
We all have to realize and admit that nobody can make great work alone, because no one is an expert at everything. Together, though, we can harness and apply vast amounts of knowledge. We all need partnerships to create best-in-class work, and that can only happen when we check our egos at the door. A great campaign is the result of a dynamic and cohesive group, one that respects the diversity of ideas so inherent in an integrated approach. Find your people, build your team, and revel in the great work you do together. Not only is the work better, but it’s actually much more fun this way.

Integrated people call out BS KPIs at the beginning
It’s very important that the fully integrated team is aligned, especially when it comes to how to measure a campaign’s success. As agencies frequently integrate more creative practices, there are many more outputs and variance in what is measureable. A great integrated brief will often have several key and varied metrics. For example, we might prioritize among tracking page views, qualitative editorial coverage, data capture, partner behavior, event attendance, brand tracker upticks, and many others. We always make sure all teams align on metrics before creative development begins to ensure our work succeeds.

Integrated people know when to ask for help
Garnering earned media is critical in every agency scenario. That’s why practices that may have once been an afterthought now need to be included from the get-go. We know that we should always have PR and social teams at the table from the beginning to ensure the ideas developed have the spark they will need to be shared. Be more collaborative than ever, making external partners and client teams more active in the creative process. For example: if your idea includes a never-been-done-before installation element, check with your best fabrication and venue partners to vet it before presenting to a client, and the likelihood is they’ll make it even better.

Integrated people are comfortable with the mess
Think of what happens when you clean up at home: there’s always a phase where it gets messier before it gets tidier. In our industry, messiness is what happens when diverse perspectives collide and combine, and, even if that’s uncomfortable, it has to be encouraged. Messiness is the first stop on the road to perfection.

Integrated people love a good pivot
We need to be open to the fact that everything in our work might change, not just our creative team. Our talent deal may fall through, or our launch date may adjust due to breaking global or national news; we have to be prepared for anything. Which is, by the way, what makes working in advertising great. Adapting to the world is more focused and fun with more diverse talents, and new hiring approaches in seeking the next generation of talent mean a changing team dynamic and composition for facing an evolving world.

No process or org chart can be the key to integrated success. A multimedia plan does not guarantee integration. That only comes when people bring their diverse areas of knowledge together. It’s about behaviors and the choices we make as people that yield the kind of work for which we all strive. Embrace the mess and the unknowns, throw away old notions of how to work, leave egos outside, and roll up your sleeves to work with new and different kinds of people to get to better ideas. In the end, it’s people who make the work great.

Claudia Strauss is CEO of Grey Activation and Public Relations.

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