When a Client Asks for Integration, What Does It Mean?

Should Hispanic Shop Handle the Hispanic Digital Account ... or the Digital Shop?

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Alberto Ferrer Alberto J. Ferrer
Last week I had a conversation with one of my colleagues at the agency about the opportunities this new client had in the digital marketing space, given its category and specific target. The discussion was part brainstorming, with a couple of good ideas batted about. At the end, however, he made a comment that gave me pause.

"We'll have to develop a proposal for this and sell it is as an incremental project since they have an interactive agency of record." The subtext was clearly that this agency would do the digital work.

This was not the first time that a client's understanding of its general market agency roster had come up. The crux of the matter can be summarized in a question: Which agency does Hispanic digital work, the Hispanic AOR or the Digital AOR? (The word "Digital" can be replaced by any discipline to the same effect -- try it with Promotions, Public Relations, etc.)

It's been mostly clear that in terms of traditional creative development, the multicultural agency does the work. That generally includes account planning and strategy work targeting multicultural audiences. It's been less clear in terms other areas. Media comes to mind as a popular one to unbundle, but that's a topic for a later post.

Some marketers think that a general market digital agency is better able to deliver strong digital ideas and high-value recommendations grounded in Hispanic insights, yet they would never suggest the same in the TV creative space, for example. Why? If the answer is that they don't have a Hispanic agency with good digital capabilities, I suggest they change Hispanic agencies. It's the end of 2007, people, and digital marketing is far from niche, even in the Hispanic market. Get with the program!

Clients invariably call for integration. But what do they mean? In my opinion, integration is about all work emanating from a universal positioning that is then delivered to different audiences based on insights that are relevant to those audiences. It ends up manifesting itself when a Hispanic consumer watching a commercial on TV for Brand X on Telemundo has a similar experience when he receives a direct mail piece and when he sees an online ad on a MSN Latino.

Some clients, however, look to integrate within the communications channel regardless of audience, trying to make all the digital work, for example, be the same across target audiences. That's not integration, that's adaptation, and it ends up causing the opposite. It disintegrates and fragments the message to the target.

Hispanic consumers (and for that matter, each target population) should be enveloped in marketing communications activity that is consistent in message and delivery and that is relevant to them. That means trusting Hispanic consumers -- regardless of media channel or language -- to the experts in communicating with that audience: the Hispanic market agency.
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