Digital, especially social, has been the silo breaker between creative, media and public-relations agencies. The usage of digital has resulted in overlapping functions of agencies, and the issue of integration toward full-service agency offerings is being brought up again, following the fragmentation trend of the past 20 years.
While creative, media and public-relations agencies seem to be playing for the same pie in the digital sphere, they are coming from different legacies and motivations, and each has its own inherent strengths.
“Creative agencies have always felt they know the brand personality the best and hence should lead the brand’s foray into digital touch-points to ensure consistency,” said Jaydeep Chaudhuri, managing partner of OMD International. “Media agencies have always planned and bought the message dissemination vehicles—and now digital is one of them. PR agencies look at social media management as a natural extension of their work in traditional platforms.”
This fragmentation has posed a challenge to marketers to ensure integration and consistency in their marketing efforts, and they are expecting agencies to offer a full range of services, spanning ATL, BTL and digital. Instead of integration, they are looking at collaboration between different agencies to work together for the same campaign.
“What clients are looking for is not re-integration, but stronger collaboration between specialists," Chaudhuri said. "We can see that across geographies, categories and partnership structures. The new emerging formats often dictate what the messaging parameters are, and that is something media agencies are in the forefront of because of the frequency of our interactions with partners like Facebook and LinkedIn.”
Jarek Ziebinski, president at Leo Burnett Asia Pacific, noted that integration is a must, and collaboration is fundamental to avoid ‘schizophrenic’ brand communication throughout multiple channels.
“Clients today are fully aware of the need for integration, and they truly want it,” he added. “However, full integration that includes structure, finance, process and methodology, remains a challenge, and we are definitely not there yet. For it to happen, clients as well as their lead agencies need to play the role of integrators together.”
Ziebinski said the process of integrating Arc into Leo Burnett Group in Asia Pacific started as early as four years ago. “We view digital not as a separate discipline or function but at the core of what we do. It is our ambition to continue to drive this integration process. At the end of the day, we are an integrated communications company.”
Gaurav Mishra, vice-president of insights, innovation and social at MSL Group, said agencies are building capabilities to offer integrated services, including digital, mobile and social.
Creative, media and public-relations agencies have traditionally been strong in owned, paid and earned media, respectively, but Mishra noted that social has also been the silo breaker between paid, owned and earned media. This allows agencies to build new capabilities while focusing on their traditional strengths.
“Public relations agencies, for instance, have had to go beyond earned media (content calendar, community management, influencer relations) to build capabilities in owned media (community platforms, social applications, creative content production) and paid media (small social and search ad buys, paid tie-ins with online content and community platforms),” he said.