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Interactive Moves the Agency "Line"

In a lively discussion of all the judges as part of the Caples Awards that I was in New York last week to help judge – one of the topics of conversation turned to the composition of today’s multidiscipline agency teams.  With the trends towards integrated marketing and agency consolidation in the industry, what many people noted had happened across the world in their agencies was the mashing together of individuals with very different skills and views into a single agency environment.  Of course, a forced marriage always has issues and many of these issues were being felt most deeply by agency clients.

This was proven by the results of the recently released Salz Survey of Advertiser-Agency Relations which was covered earlier this week in the New York Times and found that "significant differences still prevent advertisers and agencies from working together more productively."  As the article noted:

The results "are a real reflection that the industry is in a huge state of flux," as advertisers and agencies scramble to keep up with the seemingly continuous changes in consumer behavior, media choices and categories ranging from automobiles to packaged foods to telecommunications.

Clients used to have different agencies for their media planning, public relations, creative/advertising, direct marketing, and interactive.  Through time, agencies (and clients) consolidated many disciplines and union created inequality in many cases.  And where there is inequality, money wins.  TV gets the big bucks, so interactive and direct became add ons and the client relationship was managed centrally from a traditional advertising point of view.  This demotion of interactive and direct marketing activities as "below the line" separated these professionals from client interaction and ultimately limited the differing viewpoints, strategy and creative ideas that were presented to clients.  As the Salz Survey has shown, clients are telling agencies that they want to interact with the team members that have the best ideas for driving their brand and products forward, no matter what silo they fit into.  They want a transparent, flat structured and flexible team.  As we go into 2006 – this points to an increased role and importance for those below the line activities, especially interactive and other disciplines such as word of mouth marketing and viral marketing.  Seems like "the line" is moving. 

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