Creative and media went their separate ways more than 30 years ago, when big New York agencies determined they could charge clients more money for distinct services. Today, however, we’re seeing a reversal of that trend: Large industry holding companies (Publicis Groupe, WPP, etc.) are organizing media and creative under one roof — a development that bears very close scrutiny for anyone in creative brand consulting.
Why an integrated service model makes sense
Synergy may be a buzzword, but it describes a very real advantage that can be seized when the individual parts of an organization work together to achieve more than they could in isolation.
The recent “IHOb” ad campaign on behalf of the International House of Pancakes is a nice recent example of this process in motion. The campaign, which cleverly stoked social media buzz about a potential name change for the legacy pancake purveyor, was the combined creation of Initiative and Droga5, media and creative agencies working under the umbrella of IPG. The campaign, which earned industry praise, allowed IHOP to develop impactful creative work, and then increase the impact and reach of its distribution.
This encompasses the overarching concept of consolidation within the space, in which ad clients are increasingly folding all of their needs into a single agency or holding company. Many observers contend that this model — which theoretically allows creative, media, and data analytics to work synergistically — is better suited for modern advertising.
By rolling services together, campaigns can be adjusted in real time to account for the reaction of audiences. Campaigns can also leverage data to shape the direction creative takes, allowing for more refined messages and better audience targeting.
Why is this shift occurring now?
Delivering ad services in a piecemeal fashion has been a revenue driver for the last few decades, as companies could shift away from a flat commission model taken by separate on media and creative initiatives. Many of the ad industry’s new leaders, however, no longer believe this model is optimal, according to Madwell CEO David Eisenman.
Eisenman told Adweek that 90% of the RFPs his agency received in the last year included creative and media elements. This change, he said, has been driven by Millennials, who are stepping into the advertising C-suite and bringing a fresh perspective.
Publicis Groupe, one of the industry’s key players, has been pursuing an integrated model since restructuring its organization in 2015. The company streamlined all operations into four so-called “solutions hubs” that comprise all corporate business.
Under this model, the holding company acts as chief business delegator, helping coordinate client services with its constituent agencies underneath. Ultimately, the talent spread across various agencies can be tapped to service a single client, allowing for the most efficient spread of resources. This, of course, benefits clients — why only have access to creative brand consulting in one talent housed agency when you can access teams spread across an entire holding company?
Concerns and drawbacks
While an integrated model seems to be a winner for clients, some observers have cautioned that excessive integration may lead to problems. Creatives may not always appreciate being spread across an organization, mercenary-style, to work on seemingly random projects.
Additionally, if integration is handled poorly, quality may suffer. Firms that pursue widespread integration need to be certain that it is implemented carefully and methodically, given its potential for organizational disruption.
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