Integrate Already, Wouldya?

You Can't Be a Media Brand If Digital Remains in Its Own Silo

By Published on .

It's amazing how many people casually mouth the word "brand" in the media business while not acting anything like brand marketers. Just saying it isn't enough; being a brand isn't a label, it's a mindset. And it needs to thread through everything from internal structures and compensation systems to consumer-facing communications.

One of the areas where this disconnect between language and behavior is most glaring is in the continued existence of silos separating digital from everything else. If you believe your product is a brand, you need one management team, one strategy, one sales force and consistent communications across platforms. Yet far too many media sales organizations (and agencies, and marketers) continue to treat digital the way a young kid treats the basement of his home: It's a big, unknown separate space that scares and intrigues them simultaneously. And, as alluring as it is, they'd rather send someone else in to explore first.

This was hammered home when one of the news stories on the move of John Byrne from executive editor of Business Week to editor in chief of the magazine's website positioned the transfer as "a move signifying the importance of the online medium to the business publisher." I think it indicated the exact opposite by reinforcing the sense that Business Week the magazine and Business Week the website are separate entities that need separate editorial management.

Dow Jones also recently took what was, for it, a big step when it named the well-regarded media veteran Michael Rooney to run the print, online and international sales forces for The Wall Street Journal. It's the first time the publisher has put one person in charge of all three, but raises the question of why there are three separate sales forces calling on the same customers representing the same brand. The belief is he will ultimately bring them together. But too many companies are taking baby steps forward rather than confronting internal egos, agendas, and all the pains of a restructuring, and doing what's best for the brand.

The issue isn't only in the media business. The legendary adman Lee Clow, in his interview with our own Bob Garfield, talks about the mindset of some agency creatives when it comes to digital: "Sometimes it's viewed as, that's the interactive guy's job, and I'll do the main meida." He also chides Nike for moving its digital account out of longtime agency Wieden & Kennedy: "It's sad and insulting that they took the interactive stuff away ... because [Wieden] has the ability and the understanding to make it a cohesive part of the brand."

At Ad Age, we have one team that works for the brand across all platforms: print, online, video, events, etc. One editorial team. One sales operation. One marketing department. It's a constant balancing act to make sure each platform gets the proper attention, and that everyone has the skills to work across each medium. But I believe it's the right way to go, and that the quicker we all erase these imaginary lines, the more successful we'll be.
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