Media & Creative Integration: A fine balance

October 2, 2014

A good friend of mine works for a top creative agency in London. As graduates, we both went into the advertising industry – she has gone creative and side and I have gone into media. The two of us have always joked about one day becoming power house co-CEO’s of our own business. At the beginning of the summer they landed a new account. My friend came to me and said how excited she was to work with the long-standing media agency of the client. The client made it clear that they had a very strong relationship with their media agency and it was important to them that the creative agency ‘bond’ with media.

Two weeks ago, the same friend rang me quite upset, saying there had been an absolute breakdown in communication between agencies. Immediately, I jumped to the defence of the media agency – ‘Yeah, well, they’re only doing that because you didn’t do this! If it doesn’t go live it’s because of you, not them!’ Why have I just jumped to the defence of people I don’t even know? This conversation set me thinking about the relationship between creative and media agencies. There seems to be a competitive feeling between us. For me, one area that this comes to the fore especially is social. Should social strategy be handled by the creative agency, the media agency or the client? Or, even the dedicated social agency?

In January of this year, Ad Age wrote that 2014 would be the year of agency integration. Recent developments would indicate that this may be the case and that we could be circling back to the 20 years ago, when creative and media planners sat in the same building. Once again we are seeing media agencies hiring creative teams and creative agencies creating media teams. It seems people are set to offer their clients the full package.

On one hand, the argument for integration stands very strong. If we are working together every day, then we will come up with something innovative and exciting for our client easily, either in a boardroom or by the kettle. When we stop scrapping over the brief and end accusations of ‘you didn’t brief the publishers properly,’ ‘yeah, well the creative sucked,’ then the outcome for the client is something brand new.

On the other side, the argument for segregation is just as valid. Too much integration of the creative and media big guys, could dilute the individual specialities within each. We are already seeing an ever growing increase in niche, highly specialised agencies in the areas of search marketing and data or digital performance. For example, here in Omnicom we have seen the launch of Resolution Media – a new arm of the group specialising in auction based online media buying and performance activity. Whilst the development of such agencies are exciting for the industry, they do pose the threat of yet another split, should the big players allow themselves to fall into a trap of group think.

For the Irish market, the key is to find the balance. Within the industry and within agencies themselves, we need to stop placing each other into silos and instead bring everyone to the table and into the discussion. This conversation has been exhausted within agencies and yet for some reason very rarely done effectively. We don’t need to be so cautious about integration. We can collaborate without losing our individual swag. Campaigns are the most effective when everyone does what they do well, and there is a high level of communication between agencies. This year at the ADFX awards, the campaigns that took home the most number of awards such as ‘The Gathering’ or ‘QUIT,’ were the ones with the best integration and collaboration between agencies and clients, but celebrated the individual excellence each had to offer.

My friend and I won’t be ditching our teams to start our own shop just yet. For starters, I seriously doubt either of us have the start-up capital, not to mention our combined mighty 3 years of experience. But it will be interesting to see how the big changes in the global networks over the coming months and years will affect us and other young people just starting out in the industry.

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