FOCUS: MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS - When the time is right to integrate - As companies demand more sophistication and value for money from their marketing strategies, PR consultancies have discovered the benefits of diversification

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 solution.

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

same arcade?

’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,’

says Zundel.

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

literature services.

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,’

he says.

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,’

he says.


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,’

he says.

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.


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

market place.

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.


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

older models.

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.

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