When it comes to integration, forget the toothpaste metaphor

Marketers must dispel the illusion that integrated agencies are a relic of the past, writes Ian Perrin, in this guest post.

It’s easy to get mesmerised by the millions of dollars that were up for grabs during the so-called Mediapalooza of the last year.

Yet lurking beneath surface was a far more interesting development in the pitch process, one which tasked agencies to meet far more of their client’s needs.


For the past 20 years or so, we’ve seen clients embark on a series of pitches, with media, creative and digital pitches happening in isolation and often in quick succession, as clients try to line up a collection of the best partners for their business.

Increasingly however, the times are changing, as marketers look for a more holistic communications solution: to use the metaphor, they are looking to put the proverbial toothpaste back in the tube, seeking integrated ad and media solutions in one agency.

The multi-agency answer is giving way to a full service, or group, offering exemplified by the AT&T and McDonald’s pitches of recent times. Our US cousins have certainly trended this way in the past 12 months and, if reports are to be believed, we are following suit.Image via Thinkstock

The reason for this is a simple one. Clients have become frustrated by the duplication of head count, differing opinions and, let’s face it, turf wars that multi-agency solutions often breed.

Good on Nick Cleaver of  303 MullenLowe for candidly discussing these recently. No matter how positive the intent of working together, the best a client can hope for is a patchwork solution.

Some would say this is a return to the ‘full service’ model, but this is too superficial and ham-fisted a description of their requirements.  

What they’re really looking for is a bespoke solution, created specifically for their business, that allows them to deliver the most effective and seamless communications to their customers. Brands have become more customer centric, and they expect their agencies to follow suit.


There are those who claim that ‘you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube’; that ad agencies separated from media agencies some 20 years ago and will never reunite again.  

However, this is retrograde thinking. Moment and message have never been more intertwined. And besides, clients are speaking and increasingly this is what they want.

In an era of data availability, automated delivery and individual-based targeting, not considering the ‘what’ and the ‘when’ together is not just inefficient, it’s downright wasteful.

If media is targeting a specific micro segment or set of behaviours, it demands a bespoke, relevant piece of creative, not a generic message aimed at a generic audience. If channel and creative thinking are done in isolation, they lose context. And with less context, we run the risk of being less relevant to consumers.

There are many models to create integration, whether that be client or group-managed, or even a full-service offering.

So rather than dwelling on silly toothpaste metaphors, we should start giving clients and consumers what they want.

Ian Perrin is a chief accelerator at Speed


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.