Missing In Action

Agencies are full of it: They aren’t integrated. They all talk about it, but most guys from the agency couldn’t even name the media guys sitting at the same table with them at the pitch.” This is a quote that I heard a couple of months ago from a onetime client and current friend who has just gone through an agency selection process. At the time, I wrote off the comment as another of his hyperboles — everything is either the “best” or the “worst” with him. Of course we are integrated. One can’t read the trade press without reading about possible rebundling, the importance of channel selection etc., etc., no?

As of last week, I think he might be right. I was asked to participate in the Effies judging and had the opportunity to review 11 campaigns, all seeking to show how their specific understanding of the marketplace, target, strategy, selection of communication channels and creative helped create stellar effectiveness for their clients.

Although 11 entries by no means constitute a representative sample, there was a sameness, an appalling sameness, to all but two of the entries — most of the agencies hadn’t seemed to involve media anywhere in their process.

Despite the entry form specifically asking for target audience information, the rationale for channel selection and how media was used to help achieve the campaign goals, nine of the entries didn’t bother to mention any of these.

Indeed, the “targets” for these nine were as groundbreaking as “adults 25-54” and “people over 25.” I guess that with targeting like this, it shouldn’t have been surprising that the default medium was television. (Note to the agency which submitted that campaign targeting “guys 18-24”: You probably should have included something more than just television in your campaign; that demo is doing a lot of other things beside watching television.)

Although the Effies doesn’t allow agencies to mention their name in their entry, I recognized all but one and easily found out the name of that shop after the judging. All but three of the entries were from major advertising agencies.

It was instructive and interesting that the two entries that were outstanding were from integrated agencies. One was from a larger agency that has always kept its media in-house and seated its media groups with the account planners and creative teams. The other was from a small firm in the Northwest that is small enough I imagine most employees probably have to be jacks-of-many-trades and the creative and account teams probably do their own media work.

So apologies to my friend. It appears his comments weren’t all hyperbole; maybe we are just talking about integration and not doing it. While there is undoubtedly good integrated work happening in many agencies, the industry’s descriptions of its best work are saying that most agencies just aren’t integrating at all.