The debate about the best approach to an integrated marketing
message is once again back at the top of the marcoms agenda. On the one
hand, specialist agencies argue the importance of single discipline
expertise in, for example, sales promotion or design. On the other,
integrated or multi-discipline agencies champion the benefits of
breaking down old-style boundaries and finding a total marketing
Sheena Horgan, a partner at Eulogy, says: ’This is both a cosmetic and
critical issue that goes in cycles and comes back every few years.’
Over the past 20 years or so, as marketing budgets, skills and
technology have grown, so have the various arguments. Horgan believes
the solution in each case is determined by the individual needs of each
client. But she also thinks that stand-alone PR agencies should still
endeavour to employ best practice when confronted by big budgets.
’As business opportunities arise, it is tempting to diversify,’ she
’But we should be open and honest with clients, turn down unsuitable
work and stick to our single proposition mission statements. After all,
it’s what we tell our clients to do.’
There is also the question of what constitutes a truly integrated
Integration advocates talk of budget and time efficiencies. But is this
true of the big services groups and advertising agencies, which
increasingly bolt on more single discipline operations? If you chose to
buy, are they really one-stop shops or simply different stores in the
’We have experience of both camps’, says Graham Lancaster, chairman of
Biss Lancaster, which is owned by Havas Advertising in France. ’On
occasion, we will jointly present for integrated campaigns with other
discipline agencies within our group, on other occasions we bid
Lancaster thinks the differing approaches of clients to marketing
solutions are largely governed by their experience. ’If an organisation
knows the market well, they are able to have a roster of agencies and
create their own dream team,’ he says.
This is a view shared by Harvard group PR director Gareth Zundel who
says: ’It’s a question of a company’s size and whether marketing is a
core competence.’ Harvard started out in 1979 as a full service
marketing agency. ’As we grew, the clients grew more sophisticated with
us, so they no longer looked to outsource their whole marcoms outfit,’
This also meant that PR increasingly ’floated to the top’ of the
agency’s own core disciplines. In 1985, this led Harvard to wind down
its advertising, exhibitions and direct mail functions. But Harvard
Creative, its design arm, still exists, offering corporate identity and
Zundel says: ’In terms of transferable skills, this sits comfortably
alongside our other business.’
But while Zundel thinks PR agencies do not lend themselves easily to
creative services such as advertising, he says it is vital for any PR
practitioner to have marcoms experience. ’We train staff here to
understand business needs first, marketing second and PR skills third,’
However, Consolidated Communications managing director, Alistair
Gornall, whose agency has been offering a range of marketing disciplines
since its start up in 1990, disagrees there is a pecking order. ’For
instance, direct marketing, sales promotion and market research all play
a role in PR,’ he says. ’Take a crisis management situation, one of the
first things you are likely to do with a recalled product is run an
Gornall admits that most of Consolidated’s integrated work stems
initially from PR, but says: ’Marketing is about giving people what they
want. Once you’ve built a relationship with a client, they are more
receptive to other areas that you can offer.’
But he refutes the idea that this approach is more attractive to smaller
organisations, and says that advertising is an obvious solution for
business-to-business communications. Currently, his agency handles 50
per cent of Virgin Direct’s press advertisements and carries out
integrated work for Norwich Union and car rental company Avis.
Added to the financial and logistical benefits of talking to one team of
people under one roof, Gornall thinks a real advantage of an integrated
marcoms offer is that each marketing discipline is not fighting for a
larger slice of the cake.
Matthew Hooper, managing director of multi-discipline agency Interfocus
agrees. ’Single discipline agencies have to sell that discipline,’ he
says. ’Even within the large marketing services groups each organisation
has a bottom line, so you still get that competition and friction.’
Established ten years ago, Interfocus primarily offers advertising,
sales promotion, design and direct marketing services. Hooper is keen to
stress that it is and always has been multi-discipline, with no bias
towards one field.
Hooper also thinks that as Interfocus has ’a bigger tool box’ than other
agencies, it is able to come up with the right marketing combinations to
meet objectives. He says this enables the agency to offer better one-off
services through its understanding of the overall picture. ’It’s like
building a house’, he says, ’because we know how to construct the whole
thing, when we are asked to just look at the plumbing we know exactly
how it fits in.’
Unsurprisingly, Hooper is convinced that more companies are currently
turning to agencies that offer a variety of disciplines. But he thinks
the main reason for this is not consistency of message so much as
escalating media costs. As advertising becomes more expensive, companies
are looking to other areas to make marketing budgets work harder.
However, this does not tempt him to move into mainstream PR. ’It is a
very specialist skill that is often based on an individual relationship
with certain media,’ he says. ’It’s very difficult to quantify and has
such a public profile that our breadth of clients means we can’t provide
the necessary levels of expertise.’
This view is echoed by Text 100 UK marketing manager, Mark Pinsent who
says: ’The strength of our brand is that we are a large PR agency
focused on the one industry. If we branched out into other areas we’d
lose the history of our reputation and become a middle-rank integrated
’There is also the credibility barrier. If next week we set up an
advertising team, we would have to do it on the individual’s credentials
not our own,’ he adds.
Pinsent thinks a very real disadvantage of going to a multi-discipline
or integrated agency is that it is rather like shopping in a
Yes, it may be convenient and on average more than satisfactory, but not
the ideal way to buy ’the best of breed’ in each discipline. However, in
terms of integrated PR skills, he thinks the opposite is true as long as
the diversification is organic and appropriate expertise is brought
Two years ago, Text set up its lobbying and public affairs division in
response to interest from client Microsoft. Pinsent says: ’It was
outside our history and we found some slight barriers, but we brought in
Venessa Holtham to head it up and kept technology as our focus.’
But in the future, he does not see the agency extending beyond PR
related activities. ’It is difficult to get a client to spend another 20
per cent of their marketing budget on PR, so it would be tempting to get
their direct marketing off them, but this would be muddying the waters,’
CASE STUDY: A UNIFIED BRAND DESPITE VIRGIN’S VARIETIES
The name McDonald’s instantly conjures up a fast-food restaurant.
Not so with Virgin, where diversification is the name of the game.
According to Companies House, there are now 179 firms with the Virgin
brand in their title. These extend from air travel and hotels to
financial and wedding services.
For years, Richard Branson has been under attack for over-extending the
Virgin name. Critics have questioned the wisdom of stretching consumer
credibility so far from its music industry roots to encompass new
ventures such as Virgin Vodka. But now it seems that while Branson’s
personal business interests are still up for debate, the Virgin brand
itself is almost invincible.
Will Whitehorn, Virgin Management director of corporate communications
says: ’What we have done is very like Mitsubishi or Yamaha.’ He believes
that trust in the Mitsubishi or Yamaha brand name means that various
products sit happily together in the consumer’s mind. But recent Virgin
ventures are starting to draw fire. Virgin Vie, the cosmetics company
launched last October now boasts six stores. However, its close
competitor, The Body Shop, has a similar brand reputation and only time
will tell if customers feel that Virgin has anything different to offer.
Similarly, this autumn Virgin is looking to launch against formidable
competition in the clothing market.
But the greatest criticism has been directed at the Virgin Rail train
service on the dilapidated west coast main line. This has been under
fire from regulators, dissatisfied customers and media alike. ’We always
believed that the media would knock us for the trains,’ says Whitehorn.
’But we knew that post-privatisation the bottom would fall out of the
railways and it would take more than 12 months to turn it around.’ With
new rolling stock expected within two years, Whitehorn is convinced that
in five years its rail operation will be seen as ’the best thing Virgin
has ever done.’
In the meantime, he thinks the brand itself will suffer no harm. ’The
public has a greater understanding than the media gives it credit for,’
In addition, according to a recent Evening Standard survey, despite his
public declaration as a non-runner, Branson remains as Londoners’ most
popular choice for mayor. It seems as Branson himself flies high -
balloon optional - so does the Virgin brand name.
CASE STUDY: HAAGEN-DAZS SEEKS PERFECT INTEGRATION
When Haagen-Dazs ice cream was launched in 1990, the brand’s only
marketing support was PR, handled by Biss Lancaster. The launch of
competitor brands such as Ben and Jerry’s in 1994 and, more recently
Wall’s Carte D’Or, mean that Haagen-Dazs has had to adapt to a changing
This has not only involved developing advertising and sales promotion
campaigns, but also expanding PR activities to include sampling events
and sponsorship. Most recently, Biss Lancaster organised sampling at the
London premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s latest film Jackie Brown. But all
marketing activities follow an integrated guiding principle, namely to
do something uniquely Haagen-Dazs.
In May 1997, Haagen-Dazs moved its advertising from Bartle Bogle Hegarty
- which created the memorably raunchy ’Couples’ press campaign - to Euro
RSCG Wnek Gosper. As a sister company to Biss Lancaster, this enabled
the two agencies to maintain a regular dialogue and flow of
Working with the client, a new strategy and theme of ’Perfection’ was
launched across Europe in March this year. The new TV, print and poster
advertising campaign, taking the idea of Haagen-Dazs creating a 100 per
cent Perfect Sunday or Sundae was launched on 10 April 1998.
To achieve widespread coverage for the campaign, it was essential for
the PR and advertising agencies to work closely together. In January,
once all the elements of the campaign had been approved by parent
company Pillsbury UK, the two agencies met to hammer out the exact PR
This resulted in a stills photographer attending the TV shoot to ensure
both front of camera and behind-the-scenes visuals were available to the
media. In addition, the two actors starring in the advertisements were
flown over from the US for the press launch on 7 April outside the
Haagen-Dazs Cafe in London’s Leicester Square.
On a European level, Biss Lancaster and Wnek Gosper liaised with other
Euro RSCG partners to ensure they had relevant materials. The PR agency
also negotiated the use of stills from the TV commercial and the use of
the actors at the photocall on a pan-European basis.
To generate media coverage, Biss Lancaster arranged one-to-one press
briefings with Martin Jamieson, Pillsbury UK managing director and Brett
Gosper, Wnek Gosper chief executive. This resulted in coverage from the
Times and the Evening Standard to the Grocer and Talk Radio.
This group approach to integration continues, with Wnek Gosper, Biss
Lancaster and sales promotion agency KLP - also a sister agency -
currently in discussions with Pillsbury to formulate a marketing
strategy for the next financial year.
CASE STUDY: HARVARD SENDS OUT NEW LOOK FOR MOTOROLA
In spring 1997, Motorola approached Harvard PR with a branding
Motorola’s networking division specialises in providing organisations
with products that enable it to connect different offices together.
These range from corporate modems for small and medium ventures to
multimedia networking devices designed to connect several hundred
However, as the products use different technologies, customers tended to
view the different items as stand-alone. Motorola wanted to say that
whatever the scale of requirements, it could provide an overall solution
to networking needs.
Realising the existing value of the Motorola name, after much
discussion, the two parties decided on a rebranding exercise to
establish recognition and awareness of the company’s corporate network
Since March this year, all Motorola’s networking solutions have come
together under the banner of ’Infinity Connections.’ This concept is
designed to portray the products’ compatibility both with each other and
To clarify the three specific product areas, ’Infinity Connections’ also
divides into three sub-brands: ’Infinity Link’, encompassing all
corporate modems, ’Infinity Access’, covering multimedia networking
products and ’Infinity View’, the new brand for the network management
When it came to designing the new brand identity, Motorola decided to
use the design arm Harvard Creative, ensuring the brand’s visual
identity captured the key messages. This resulted in a new design theme
and range of literature using images from Greek mythology.
During March and April, Harvard PR organised press launches for the new
branding in 13 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. This
involved meeting journalists and industry analysts and liaising with
Motorola’s agencies in South Africa, Greece and Italy.
In the future, the new identity will form the creative basis for further
corporate design work, including product literature, case studies,
exhibition stands, marketing guides and web sites.
Mary Harrison, EMEA marketing communications manager for Motorola’s
networking division says: ’We needed an image that was solid, strong,
evocative and that would give us a real identity in the eyes of our
customers as the complete solutions provider.’ She feels the result is
’truly cross-cultural in its appeal’ - ideal for a worldwide market.