Specialization is Great, But Integration is Better
By Lonny Strum, Strum Consulting Group
I grew up in the industry in the late 70s and 80s at BBDO/New York. Just post-Mad Men era, though not too far removed. For its many flaws, BBDO/New York was a truly great agency. BBDO and its clients knew what it was—a TV shop for big brands which were looking to build their image through TV advertising. Not print, not radio—TV. In that era, BBDO was second to none.
My career moved to Philadelphia in the 90s where I ran two large local agencies—Earle Palmer Brown and later the Star Group—though much of what I learned about the power of TV advertising remained in my soul. Nonethetheless, I gained a deeper appreciation for “other marketing disciplines”—PR, Yellow Pages Advertising, Direct Response and later some early Web Development. BBDO had none of these other disciplines. It didn’t have to. There were other shops in the BBDO network and later the Omnicom Diversified Agency Services (DAS) network that did that “other stuff.” And in the 70s and 80s, the other stuff was myopically viewed as secondary.
Changes happened along the way, some subtle others not so. Even before that information superhighway thing took off (and I thought it was a fad—oops), the growth of “below the line” functions—promotion, DR, PR – grew faster than general advertising. Then media shops were spun off into separate companies, leaving the big ad shops as largely strategic/creative firms. Then all hell broke loose as digital shops grew and continue to grow. While traditional ad spending still is the dominant form of spending, I foresee the day in the not too distant future when general advertising is “below the line.” Truth of the matter is the line has now been blurred, and today there is no line at all.
Today the three media worlds—paid, owned and earned– are experiencing a convergence. To be clear the three media worlds are:
Paid media is media you buy—TV ads, radio, outdoor, print, display advertising, paid search, TV spots, outdoor advertising, etc.
Owned media is as it says-you own it. Your web site, blog, YouTube Channel, social media pages, etc. The company controls the horizontal. The company controls the vertical. (see The Outer Limits)
Earned media is typically what people thought of as PR but which now has a broader application. From traditional articles/mentions and word-of-mouth to new social media chatter, likes, reviews, links, etc. — basically what people are genuinely saying about you digitally or not, that you didn’t pay for or control.
This convergence is kind of like a Vulcan mind meld and you need to have the wisdom and knowledge of Spock to orchestrate it properly. Here’s the real challenge:
In this complex marketing world, marketing discipline specialization is so important. It is a full time job mastering the detail and gaining a deep and full understanding of a marketing discipline/media type particularly when layered with the digital implications that never even existed in yesteryear. Despite the need for specialization, there has never been a time where integration of those disciplines is more important. Said simply,
Specialization without orchestration yields no integration
(overuse of the “ations” I know, but you get the point)
My point is this: Never has there been more marketing specialization in distinct areas—traditional advertising, PR, media planning/buying, social media, search, SEO, digital advertising. Each element overlaps the other. In yesteryear specialized disciplines were handled by separate “departments” of ad agencies. Today they are handled by separate agencies.
So where is the integration happening? Mainly at companies by smart digitally focused, analytic-centric, renaissance marketing people. This integrator needs to be incredibly smart, versatile and visionary.
For those who are entering the marketing field, you should aspire to ultimately be that person. The person with the vision of how the pieces really work together. My advice is always try to learn about disciplines outside of your specialty, figure out how they work together, and then go to the head of the convergence class.