Lessons in Creating an Integrated Digital Marketing Team

Julia Ogden 3 years ago

In the good old days – think Mad Men – advertising agencies ruled the roost, and the campaign budgets. They dictated the pace, the creativity and the strategy.

They told everyone how it would be and the other marketing disciplines just fell into place. Exposure on TV, the print media and outdoor advertising, dominated exposure – it was all about showing off how much money you had to showcase your brand – the bigger, the bolder, the better. Messaging wasn’t exactly sophisticated either….

Thankfully life has a fabulous way of moving on, and as new technologies come into the creative process, along with fresh new minds, evolution happens.

Within the highlighted links I have deliberately profiled examples from automotive campaigns as traditionally this sector is arguably the most innovative regarding campaigns and enjoys some of the biggest budgets. Cars often trail blaze in the advertising industry and set the tone and pace for others to follow.

Amazingly there is only around 60 years between the above examples but what a difference, straight forward TV advertising with dubious messaging through to fully integrated campaigns.

The rise of digital and multi platforms to send out brand messages has had a huge impact on the structure of campaigns.

As has the now obsessive attention to detail towards the audience, the people every brand is earnestly trying to capture and persuade.

We have learnt over the years that educating and informing is no longer enough. Consumers, today, need to interact, be involved, be part of the experience and ultimately feel it is their own personal experience.

Consequently, talking directly to the consumer is key for every marketer. Starbucks started with a simple ‘write the customers name on the cup’ now look at the aspirations for the brand who has become a pioneer on personalisation.

So, how does this new cultural wave of personalisation and putting the audience first effect how marketers and communicators work? Thinking especially about when we plan campaigns and looking at how we address all consumer touch points.

Within the discipline of PR and our campaign role, there has been a fundamental change.

I have worked in PR for a few years now and have had the fortune to work with some big hitting national and international brands. When I started out as a press officer, PR was a constant after thought; something that just got bolted on at the very end of the process as ‘we cost nothing and were just the icing on the cake’. Not exactly motivating.

My personality and desire to achieve is such that that really wasn’t good enough and I knew PR could do so much more.

This was backed up by an instinct that ‘the times were a-changing,’ as I eagerly read PR Week, Marketing & Marketing Week, to look at and learn from brand best practises. I began to follow brands who I thought had nailed it.

Guinness was fundamentally key to my wanting to challenge the status quo mindset back in my early career inhouse at a brewery.

I was hugely impressed by their campaign – Good things come to those who wait – and remember seeing this cross over from TV to outdoor poster sites, in pub point of sale and then the music culturally dominated over a summer and everyone was caught up in Guinness fever wherever you turned. When the theme music came on in a bar / club / festival and everyone did the crazy dance.

The message of wait and crucially enjoy the wait while your pint was poured was easily understood across all platforms. I personally would love to see how Guinness would now bring this creation to life in our now multi platform digital age. Sly Saller if you are reading this…. PLEASE!

Because of highly successful creative excellence such as this, which cut across TV, point of sale, events and PR, I, like many, became became confident to become an annoying nagging, pain in the butt to my bosses about harnessing the potential of PR. Eventually I was allowed into what was then the inner sanctum – the ad agency – and could contribute to campaign strategy. This was back in the late 1990’s.

I was not alone in my experience, this revolution was happening everywhere.

PR has always fought really hard to be at the creative top table. Thankfully those dark days are now pretty much gone, as collaboration and integration are now key and indeed expected. It feels like this has only changed in the last few years but the acceleration of change has been monumental regards impact.

Look at how key awards are now judged and given – they are all multi channel, multi discipline. This is now the new norm and dominance by the ad agency is now a distant memory. Best practise not only demands integration – it is expected. The shortlist for Cannes PR Lions Jury bears this out.

Impact of integration in house

In-house, the very best marketing directors enable a culture which allows their teams to work together. They create campaign work flows which empower managers and agencies, so integration happens as a habit not an exception.

Crucially, the agencies related to the campaign all need to meet and learn to work together. This is not just once a year, when brand plans are unveiled – it’s before then, at every campaign conception, sitting around a table working out how best to maximise profile TOGETHER.

Domino’s Pizza launched a brand platform of ‘Greatness from Domino’s’ and from this spun out multi platforms of experience, imagery, communication on digital, TV, outdoor advertising and PR.

Their advertising for the Greatness campaign had a tongue-in-check feel to it, led initially by the icon of the advert being a moped (as for many people the immediate iconic connection to Domino’s was via moped delivery.)

On launching the service that fresh hot doughnuts were now being added to their menu and delivered to your door, the pizza group changed the moped in the ad for a fairground dodgem car. The dodgem car was chosen as the emotional connection for the consumer. From brand research the tantalising doughnut smell resonated with customers’ happy childhood memories of days spent at fairgrounds so the icon to best represent this became the dodgem car.

The PR strategy for the doughnut launch, worked in perfect sync with the ad campaign, both in content and timing, because the ad team and digital and PR teams were all at the same table.

A stunt followed with the Domino’s dodgem car being driven around recognisable London locations such as Buckingham Palace, Westminster and London Bridge to help drive engagement, buzz and chatter on digital with “who spotted the car” plus a photographer, working alongside, to get imagery sold into the media. This resulted in a photo of the day in The Daily Telegraph.

A collaborative approach, led from the top in house, ensured this micro doughnut campaign, as part of the larger Greatness campaign, achieved great results and huge awareness. The group couldn’t keep up with demand for doughnuts in the first month – a sure fire sign of the commercial impact being hit with a focus integrated strategy of buzz and awareness.

What does integration look like agency side?

Having turned poacher from gamekeeper (jumped from in house to agency) I find this process fascinating.

Fundamentally, strategy leads everything and the strategy calls for full integration. This is an example of how we set this out at Zazzle Media.

None of this is rocket science – let’s be honest the best practises thrive on simplicity – but this is how we do it. Zazzle Media evolves constantly and will always work closely with the client to ensure best practise.

Zazzle Media has a culture of communication first and encourages team leaders to get their teams to talk across the business and to think in each other’s shoes to ensure best delivery to the client.  Overall, this leads to stronger more informed campaigns with relevant editorial. As illustrated by the award winning work we completed on the AO.com Vegetable Cookbook.

From a PR perspective the Zazzle Media team knows it cannot sit waiting to be spoon fed information.

As well as establishing clear strategic process, which involves everyone, the PR team, additionally, keeps close to every department to see proofs of written content and design. Then working, backed with knowledge from their intensive media prospecting, it ensures the content is in the best place possible to be picked up by the high end media sites thus smashing campaign Hitwise targets.

We have shaken up how the PR team works with clients – again this is not revolutionary but it has made a fundamental difference to how success looks.

We have established bespoke client teams, who come in at pitch stage and then see the client through on boarding before working on their campaigns. For Zazzle Media, this small change is about empowering staff, but also clearly having the mentality, right from the start, in establishing Zazzle Media as an extension of the client’s PR team.

The team constantly strives to get under the skin of the client and its brand to work with authority, passion and expertise. This energy needs to then be translated to the media to ensure good placements. Energy and passion are infectious; couple that with great content and you are pretty much there.

Zazzle Media ensures this structure works across every department so every client has ambassadors who see the campaigns though from start to finish. This works brilliantly in brainstorms, as everyone attending is ‘the voice of the client’ and instinctively understands what is needed.

This then translates to our bible - the campaign and distribution plan - which contains all the tasks, timelines for delivery, prospecting, targets, audience personas, objectives, anchor texts, link information etc. etc. The plan keeps us all grounded, helps us appreciate what everyone is doing and crucially informs the client of the process.

The client account manager then refers to this throughout the campaign period and charts progress, ensuring the workflow is moving along as it should. The PR team is key at the end – distribution – so we insist it is familiar with every other step, keeps on top of how the work is going and works with other teams to ensure the content is in the best shape possible for the media.

Again, nothing ground-breaking, it is all common sense – but it is a cultural mind-set of collaboration, leaving ego at the door and a fundamental priority of putting the work first, not just your individual part of the work. This is key, when multiple agencies work with a client on a project. Mind-set equals magic.

Campaign planning template

Ensuring you have a well rounded and thought out system for recording and sharing ideas is also crucial to success. It's something Zazzle Media has spent a LOT of time on and our solution sits in the 'cloud' to ensure collaborative working across all elements of the campaign process. A small sample of what some of those documents look like can be seen below.

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You can download a number of our templates to try out by following the links below:

  1. Content Strategy Toolkit
  2. Campaign Planning  Template
  3. Content Distribution Template
  4. Content Calendar Template

Agency to agency integration

The client brings together multiple agencies, across different disciplines, but all experts in their fields. Very much a round table approach, with everyone respecting the partner disciplines and ensuring the end campaign encompasses every slant. The client heads this up, as a project leader.

The undoubtable positives to this, are the fact that there is considerable resource and expertise at the table. Having been project lead on this style of approach, the magic really happens when everyone comes in on a campaign as equals. It does take a couple of projects to settle this in, but, when it does, the work is simply awesome. However, a downside is that it takes considerable management time from the client, which can bring about cost efficiencies, but again once the magic happens it is just so worthwhile.

At Zazzle Media, we have been part of that multiple approach with the Money Advice Service. The client was insistent on collaboration and integration with all its agencies and the response produced some incredible work, which was best in class from strategy and design all the way through to distribution, both in traditional and digital media.

Lead agency

This is where the client uses a lead agency to provide overall brand direction and then they help the client to manage and coordinate the other agency resources.

The positives from this can be tighter agency co-ordination and potentially faster integration. However, a downside often is that the lead agency can dominate, to the extent that they drown the others out. Also the lead agency has to be a jack-of-all trades to understand the nuances of every platform.

So – what is the best route?

Like everything in life, there is no clear cut answer! My experience, both in-house and agency side, is that you have to find the way that best suits the people around the table and will guarantee the best work.

Be flexible, give it time for ego to settle and ensure processes, like the ones we use at Zazzle Media, help the bedding in period. The magic will always happen when everyone is on the same page. If people are resistant to get on that page, then move away from them and look for ones who are. At Zazzle Media, we wholly embrace integration and collaboration and often push the client for these meetings, as we know this will benefit their objectives tenfold.

Integrated campaigns that get it right from the outside looking in

So these are campaigns where I feel the magic has happened. I have no idea if it was a smooth process to get to the end result – the high standard of work implies it should have been. Being a fly on the wall for some of these would have been fascinating, I am sure. But to me these are examples are where it feels wholly integrated and everyone was on the same page.

I simply love Beats by Dr Dre – The Game before the Game.

I first became aware of these headphones at London 2012 through swim sensation Michael Phelps. It felt like some form of sponsorship had probably happened with him. He was always in his own isolated bubble before his races – he blocked everything else out through these headphones. They were welded to his head for all of the 2012 Olympics.

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Then over subsequent months & years these iconic headphones just started to ritually appear at every major sporting event & athletes began to talk about how music prepared them for the fight ahead. To me this is an integrated campaign of magic.

Then arguably the daddy of them all – Mastercard’s Priceless campaign which began in 1997 and has seamlessly evolved as the nuances of marketing evolved. The campaign has successfully worked over the years as the idea of priceless moments hits the emotional sweet spot – a priceless moment resonates with everyone and can be played out in a multiple of creative ways.

The arrival of digital and social spaces took the campaign to a new level. Traditional advertising, personal experiences, event sponsorship, PR, influencer engagement and high profile associations all combine to make an integrated smorgasbord which many brands will envy.

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