What to look for in a good integrated agency

Being an in-house marketer can be a right pain in the backside. You basically need to have the agility of an Olympic gymnast to keep on top of all the cat-herding, as well as pulling various high impact campaigns out of your nether regions on demand. Although that last bit is a different kind of gymnastics.

All of that means managing agencies to keep activity consistent and on target can sometimes feel like just another task on a long, long list. And if you’ve got multiple agencies working across different briefs or tactics this can get even more complicated – it’s all too easy for misunderstanding to quickly crop up if one agency has developed the campaign platform that others are then delivering.

Good integrated agencies help to solve this issue. Problem is, there are more shit suppliers out there than good ones. So how can you spot a decent integrated agency that will help rather than hinder your work?

The key, of course, is that the capabilities offered can stand up to the quality of individual shops who don’t offer an integrated service. No point consolidating your provision if that means a drop in quality.

Above all, you need an agency that understands your sector – otherwise you’re swapping one kind of inefficiency for another whilst they get up to speed. If they ever do. So the lead agency needs to have a proper grasp of your market. We find this needs to go beyond what we learn from research on behalf of the client and offer a deeper understanding of sector-specific issues, customer requirements and competitor activity.

To do this it’s worth considering agencies that have a specialist focus or track record in your particular sector. Have they worked with similar brands in the past? Do they work with adjacent but non-competing brands now?

It’s also important that agencies are able to recognise what they’re good at and what they’re not; there are very few agencies that can be a true one stop shop.

We focus on a handful of capabilities in house – strategy, creative, PR and campaign management. That means it’s easier for us to keep on top of what we do well and make sure clients are given a consistent service, whereas on the flipside agencies that are trying to be all things to all people are often spread far too thinly.

So going integrated doesn’t mean you necessarily end up with only one agency – just fewer. In fact it’s rare for our clients to work only with us; they’ll likely have demands for the likes of web or digital product development that can best be met by specialists in those fields.

What we can do is help to get these agencies aligned as we’re working on campaign and brand strategy, which means we’re well placed to act as the lynchpin for multi-agency projects. We’re also able to bring in our own trusted partners for the likes of PPC and SEO where required, again providing a single point of contact for the client in the management of this.

Ultimately, if you find the right integrated agency you’re going to benefit from reduced stress levels and more aligned, higher impact campaigns. That’s not to be sniffed at – even if it means giving up the glory and self-development a high class gymnastics career can offer.

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