A few years back, at one of our agency's Spring Advances, we were challenged by some Outward Bound exercises.
The problem-solving exercises had time limits. So the teams jumped in quickly and just started doing, before we were in agreement with what we were doing. Finally, after two days of those exercises – and loads of frustration – it started to sink in that the investment of time early on to plan and integrate the strategy and tactics was well worth it.
This is somewhat related to the carpenter's adage to "measure twice, cut once."
Here's a situation: Imagine that a group of marcom specialists representing the advertising, PR, promotions, direct, media and interactive disciplines and billing at an average rate of $XXX per hour, have reviewed a client's situation. They've agreed on the communications strategy that the consumers who now believe “Y” must be influenced to believe “Z.” And now it's time to determine how to change perceptions.
One of the specialists, let's say an advertising copywriter, has an idea. It's clever, but not quite on strategy, so it limits the opportunities for PR and promotions. Discussion ensues. Then a PR person comes up with a novel approach. The group likes it, and decides to allow the advertising and promotions specialists time to develop an approach consistent with the media relations portion of the campaign. So the group schedules to reconvene a few days later to move the project to the next step.
Is this a complicated and laborious situation? Yes. Is it one that is necessary to align the disciplines and achieve continual forward motion? We believe so.
Expensive? Yes, in the short term. Is it worth it? Yes. Because it saves the client money in the long term.
How expensive would it have been for the advertising specialists to proceed with development of their concept and find out later that it didn't lend itself to a consistent campaign because it didn't work for the other disciplines? How expensive would it be if an incredible opportunity that maximized the power of the other disciplines had been lost?
Timing is another reason for integration. For example, journalists want news. Too often the news is announced in an ad. That makes it harder to position the information as news with journalists doesn't it?
Employee relations are another reason. How many times have companies launched a new campaign without informing the sales force or the front-line customer service personnel?
We believe the more you invest in up-front planning for integration, the better the ROI in the longer term. Who can argue with that?
However, it's amazing how often companies don't follow IMC planning processes. Some ad agencies have never even met the people at the PR agency working on the same account!
One of the greatest challenges in developing IMC is adhering to processes that increase the odds of producing the best multi-pronged programs – programs centered around a core benefit, with original and motivating messages that generate healthy participation by the target audience.