Heston Blumenthal is the king of the kitchen gadget. I thought that I was moving into the upper echelons of kitchen manhood when I bought a zester, but this chap is leagues ahead. As the legend himself says: "You'll use an oven, kettle, microwave, blender. So why not a lab-grade centrifuge to split amino acids?" And it's not just the gadgets that he already has, he is always on the hunt for more.
But Heston is not running around sourcing a pneumatic road drill for the sake of the drill itself. He has a task in mind for it. He's trying to find inventive new ways to solve culinary problems. I'm also pretty convinced that he doesn't wander into his lab of gadgets and pluck three of his newest, shiniest toys, stick them on his workbench and then try to work out how he could make a snail creme brulee with them.
Marketing types share Heston's fascination with the new and shiny. Promoted Tweets, Facebook engagement ads, Apple iAds, iPad magazine advertising and the rest are our media gadgets of choice. We all want to hoard their loveliness in our tool cupboard and pull them out at the first opportunity.
Where marketers differ from Heston, though, is that we often want to use our tools because they are there rather than because it will help us solve a problem in an inventive way. And to compound this, the advertising ideal is to use all of them at the same time. We like to call it integration. Heston would call it a dog's dinner. It's almost as if modern-day integration has become an exercise in ticking new media boxes. A parade of long-tail channel excess just because it makes campaigns look innovative and it serves to make use of that newly fragmented media budget.
Blame the 15-year-old "Multiplying the media effect" paper. Integrate your campaign across multiple broadcast channels and the combined effect will be greater than the sum of its parts. Fine for 1987, but it is flawed linear thinking to assume that continuing to extend the message across a thousand more media options will continue to multiply the results. It can be a costly, time-draining and complex task. Agencies need to have the confidence to say no to bells and whistles. Integration is not about shotgun breadth, it's now about making the right choice.
Look at ITV's ad of the decade for Hovis. That was a blooming brilliant TV ad. It had no need for a Twitter profile or a participative social microsite. Nor did our FA Support England project require broadcast media to make it fly. They achieved their aim through selective and exclusive media.
Perhaps we should start to look at media integration in four dimensions. Launch a campaign with a slimmed-down media mix, observe the effect and adapt and compound the messaging as appropriate. Old Spice did it. That started as a singular ad but, as our favourite horse-riding hero gained traction, it made sense subsequently to extend the campaign with an integrated Twitter campaign (and, indeed, the couponing that followed). This is integration for the digital world.
Integrated marketing, though, is not just about the broadcast channels.
We also need to consider the new techniques at our disposal for engaging with people. Heston's doing it. "I'm looking into attaching some seaweed paste to a fan so we can blast the diners with a sea breeze as they eat," he says. The olfactory sensations it provides serve to enhance the overall experience of the seafood dish. It's there to make the dish taste better.
Marketers' similar experiments in their field don't always make for a more effective end product. I still titter at Dagens Industri's spoof agency award video: "In late 2009, we were chosen as the head agency for a well-known Japanese car manufacturer. Our first mission was to launch 'Zebra', a new four-wheel drive model on the Swedish market. Our solution? We created a Zoo." GENIUS. A participative idea that they go on to integrate.
"The zoo was built in record time. Those interested could follow the process in real time via web and mobile applications and social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Bambuser and YouTube.
"Using banners with animal sounds, potential visitors were wooed to the microsite, where they could take part in competitions such as 'Christen the Zebra' and 'How many zebras should the zoo have?'" It goes on to add guerilla marketing, content via Zoo TV, an always-on mobile app, "Zoo Me", and a raft of silliness. Finally, it breaks out of this new-fangled integration nightmare, suggesting that maybe it would have been better to just run a regular print campaign instead. I can't help but agree with the newspaper people.
Take Cadbury's "Spots v Stripes" campaign. It's a loosely fitting brand idea based on the currently very new and shiny game theory. Integrating everything from a telly spot, to participative social media sites, PR and live events, to an actual participative chocolate bar. The messaging is complex and entangled and I'm sure the punters are a smidge confused as to what this is all about, just as the marketing team must be confused as to how this will shift chocolate. It's tightly integrated, no doubt about it, and has the legs to last until 2012, but to what aim? There are surely more efficient ways to deliver an integrated message.
Compare this with Walkers' "Do us a flavour". At its heart, it is a participative sales promotion idea. The beauty of it, though, is the natural ease they had in integrating the campaign around it. It was almost intuitive what roles broadcast, participative and retail channels would play. Each of them had a significant contribution to the marketing goal. There was no additional clutter for cleverness' sake.
For all of his innovating, Heston still lives by the mantra: "If it doesn't taste good, it doesn't go on the menu." The man has three Michelin stars for a reason. If we are to get ours, we need to stop integrating and start making marketing decisions.
Integration is an excuse for not making choices
- For integration, the world was a better place back when it was worse. Fewer channels, media and engagement techniques made integration a logical exercise. Now complexity of choice has made marketers make no choice at all
- It's time to stop integrating and start making decisions
Nick Emmel is the executive planning director at Dare
(From Campaign's "What Next in Integration" supplement, December 3 2010)
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk