Key Issue at 4A's Conference: Integration

You've Heard It Before, but Agencies Need to Use Media and Metrics to Make It Happen

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NAPLES, Fla. (AdAge.com) -- Marketers are struggling with new-media options, agencies are looking for relevance and the consumer is in the driver's seat. Yet to hear 4A's President-CEO O. Burtch Drake tell it at the American Association of Advertising Agencies' Management Conference at the Ritz-Carlton here, everything is coming up roses.
O. Burtch Drake
O. Burtch Drake Credit: Art Beaulieu

"It's a great time to be in a great business," he said in his opening address, pointing out that in the 14 years he has been at the helm of the organization, he's watched recessions, dot-com bubbles and busts, the rise of interactive, and numerous stories (including many from this publication) that have predicted the death of the ultimate ad currency: the 30-second spot.

Moving on
Granted, Mr. Drake's perspective is one of nostalgia and reminiscence, as he is expected to announce his successor in the fall at the next 4A's conference.

He attempted to impress upon the CEOs, marketing chiefs, public-relations directors and media execs in attendance the business imperatives of going digital, attracting talent, improving diversity, claiming fair compensation and improving government relations. With the government "threatening" direct-to-consumer drug advertising, advertising to children and the deduction of some advertising expenditures -- and with fair compensation being the key to attracting talent that is both diverse and media-neutral -- the last two imperatives are tantamount.

It was 4A's Chairman Tony Hopp and Interpublic Group of Cos. Chairman-CEO Michael Roth who attempted in later presentations to address a key issue raised at the Advertising Research Foundation's conference earlier this week in New York: integration, or the lack thereof.

Though agencies have been talking about "holistic," "360-degree marketing" and "fully integrated offerings" for a while now, clients are not impressed, Mr. Roth said, basing the conclusion on a Forrester Research study and his own experience. Marketers, he said, have yet to see integration truly happen.

Metrics and media as solution
Messrs. Hopp and Roth stressed metrics and media as solutions. Mr. Hopp echoed the 4A's more expansive concept of ROI: return on ideas, return on involvement and return on investment. (The broader idea was first introduced at last year's management conference in Phoenix.) There's a world of media possibilities out there, each with its own capability to track consumers, he said, and agencies that tap into these tools will up their accountability quotient, which will unlock better compensation.
Michael Roth
Michael Roth Credit: Art Beaulieu

Along those lines, DraftFCB Chairman-CEO Howard Draft, later in the day, talked about "Creating the Accountable Agency." With Draft's win of the $560 million Wal-Mart account in October 2006, the marketing industry thought it might finally have the chance to witness to just what the coupled above-the-line FCB and below-the-line Draft could do -- until the new Interpublic unit lost the account in a rather noisy manner. The agency's win on Tuesday of Kmart's $200 million creative account could be Mr. Draft's underwhelming second chance to make his rhetoric a reality.

DraftFCB, he said, was his first opportunity to create something new: a true marriage of advertising arts and marketing science under one management team and profit-and-loss. Mr. Draft said his agency parallels the ROI theme of the conference. After all, he said, "if we don't track it, our clients will not value it."

Heard it all before
But the upshot of Mr. Draft's model, as he outlined from the stage, boiled down to the same rhetoric anyone's heard at any marketing conference in the past year: break down silos; it's time to innovate; agencies should be true business partners; if you aren't an agent of change, you're an object to change; play well with other agencies.

Perhaps his best point was one of fearlessness: Accountability does not kill creativity; in fact, it should enhance it. He called for the democratization of data, mined from both the client and the agency and visualized in creative ways, with real-time data streams running 24/7.

Mr. Draft offered the DraftFCB brand proposition of the best full-service, non-siloed, fully integrated agency for each of his clients. Now if we could finally see the fully integrated fruits of his labors.
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