Is integrated marketing the wave of the future?

February 1, 2004

The hottest topic in marketing today is “integrated marketing.” Some professionals are calling for advertising, PR, direct mail, sales promotion and other functions to converge into one big en


Already there are many integrated marketing firms offering their services to Corporate America. “The wave of the future” is their rallying cry.

Will the wave include integrated operations, the close cooperation between different marketing functions?


Will we see advertising, PR, direct mail and sales promotions firms disappear into one big category called “integrated marketing” agencies? Undoubtedly not.

The trend is in the opposite direction. The trend is toward more specialized agencies. Furthermore, traditional agency services have continued to splinter off and become separate businesses, the latest being media buying.

This splintering puts pressure on clients who have to “integrate” the operations of the many specialized marketing suppliers they do business with. Our latest book, for example, “The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR” discusses the integration of PR with advertising.

Our advice: PR first, advertising second. The issues involved in integrating these two functions are complex and we’re not sure that many clients truly understand the importance of managing the functions to take maximum advantage of what each function does best.

Does that mean that clients will decide to turn everything over to an integrated marketing agency? It’s highly unlikely because there is an enormous advantage in specialization.

In medicine, in dentistry, in law, in almost any occupation you can name, the trend has been toward more specialization, not less. Why should marketing be any different?

Look at the military and you will see what will happen in marketing.

The hottest topic in the military today is “integrated operations,” the close cooperation between all branches. Today, the air force, armor, artillery and infantry work closely together, but does that mean the Defense Department is going to merge the four branches?

Not a chance. Specialization continues to push the four branches apart forcing the military to pour billions of dollars into communications gear to integrate their joint operations.

Marketing people should expect the same. As time goes on, new functions will develop and increase in importance until they reach a point where they split off from the mainstream. Both inside and outside the corporation.

Yet all the talk revolves around integration and convergence. “Although integration is often considered the Holy Grail of marketing today,” reported Advertising Age recently, “few have uncovered its secrets.” In the last ten years, according to a word count conducted by the publication, “integrated marketing” was mentioned 960 times.

It’s all talk and no action. Furthermore, whenever the Holy Grail is dragged into a discussion you can be pretty sure that whatever they’re talking about will never happen.