Thursday, December 13, 2007

How to avoid landmines on integrated campaigns

By Tom Hespos

Working with integrated sales groups sounds easy in principle, but all sorts of issues rear their ugly heads when buyers work with sellers in a cross-media capacity.

It's staggering how much time, thought and money went into integrating sales groups since the first dot-com crash.

Integration brought a number of benefits to the table for both buyer and seller. The problem was that many advertisers, agencies and publishers had differing definitions of "integration."

On one end of the spectrum, advertisers looked at integrated buying as a way to exploit economies of scale, as well as the ambiguities of a new way of doing business and a way to negotiate favorable pricing. On the other end of the scale, there were advertisers who were fans of integrated thinking who wanted to see ideas come to life across multiple channels, and for whom cost was a secondary concern.

To me, it's that integrated thinking camp that's most interesting. Negotiating for more favorable rates simply by making commitments in a cross-channel fashion is a great way to save money, but in the end, if that's all that integration means to you, you're going to end up commoditizing creative thinking. But I digress…

Integrated buying and selling groups are far from reaching their true potential, and there are still plenty of advertisers who believe in a "best of class" approach with multiple agencies working on different media channels on behalf of a client. So, the days of planning and buying integrated media in a consolidated fashion are way off in the distance for some advertisers.

Still, that shouldn't stop us from capitalizing on integrated opportunities. Here are some tips for navigating that space that could save you time, money and effort down the line.

1. Attribute Dollar Values to Everything – Every element comprising an integrated campaign should be line-itemed and have a dollar value attached to it. Too often, I've seen advertisers and agencies sign off on an integrated package with only a bottom-line price tag. Here's where this leads to trouble. Let's say you sign off on an integrated package for $300,000. It consists of three four-color spreads in a magazine and a three-month online sponsorship. After the flight runs and the bill comes, you find out that two of the three magazine issues didn't make rate base. The client isn't open to post-flight makegood weight. How much money are they due back? You're probably in for a lengthy negotiation to see how much money your media partner will knock off the bill. However, if each print ad has a dollar value attached to it, you'd know exactly how much money your client was due.
2. Make Commitments Simultaneously – When two different agencies collaborate on an integrated campaign, I often see them inadvertently weaken their negotiating position. Here's how it happens. One agency signs off on elements of the program (the ones that fall under their area of expertise) before the other one is finished negotiating. The seller then figures that if one piece of the program is committed, it's highly unlikely the second agency will walk away from the deal when negotiating the second piece. Ideally, the two agencies want to commit at the same time.
3. Stick to Your Standards – Integrated contracts tend to be a little funny in that they're often drawn up by lawyers who tend to work either with offline or online, but rarely both. Thus, it's common for contracts to leave out elements that are considered standard on the online side of the business that the offline side might not be aware of. IAB/AAAA Terms and Conditions might not be present. There might be different language in contracts that deals with how to handle things like makegoods, or that might call for payment before the online agency is realistically capable of reconciling delivery. Whatever the case, always ensure that the standards that typically govern online portions of integrated packages are governing yours, or you could be in a world of hurt when it's time for a post-buy analysis.

One day, the industry will figure out a better way to execute on integrated campaigns. In the meantime, we might continue to have integrated groups at publishers selling into non-integrated agencies. Be mindful of the three things I outlined above and you'll save yourself a lot of heartache.

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