The King is Dead. Long Live the King!

I sure hope the integrated marketing agency model is changing. The traditional version never worked and, lord knows, with traditional advertising in a death spiral, the new integrated marketing model sure needs to feature other, more relevant and cost effective lead disciplines.

I worked for two large integrated marketing agencies in the 1990s. Both talked the talk. But, neither EVER walked the walk. Both assured employees and clients alike that advertising, public relations, direct mail and sales promotion were equal in their importance. But, as was the case in Animal Farm, some disciplines were always more equal than others.

Advertising executives in general ruled supreme in integrated marketing agencies. And, creative directors in particular wielded absolute dictatorial power. Woe betide the lowly PR executive who questioned an advertising executive's decision or, worse, thought of himself as being on the same plane as a creative director.

I reported to one integrated marketing agency CEO who was openly disdainful of PR. I was his hand-picked successor and was expected to think and act as he did. I remember every week or so, he'd come into my office on management row and say, "Let's visit the rats' nest." By that, he meant the PR department. I asked him why he labeled it that way (especially since he himself had begun in public relations). "PR can't be controlled. It's messy. Its people are messy and its offices are always a mess with press kits, trinkets and god knows what. PR is a rats' nest," he'd sniff.

I wonder what that now long-retired CEO must think of the demise of his beloved traditional advertising model and the emergence of that "messy" PR as a dominant integrated marketing discipline.

More to the point, I sure hope his integrated marketing agency successors are rapidly retrofitting their service offering because the king (advertising) is dead. Long live the king (PR).

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