At Business Insider, Jim Edwards further investigated the mess involving a Kellogg’s CRM project at Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett and Arc Worldwide. A bunch of employees from the agencies resigned en masse, threatening to take the project with them. The eight rogue workers are now facing a lawsuit, the agencies look bad and the client has yet to make a public statement.
Can’t help but think the scenario underscores the fallacy of integrated marketing as presented by holding companies—and holds implications for the continued failure of implementing diversity initiatives too.
Despite the hype by networks offering a variety of services seamlessly across multiple units, true and effective collaboration is still a pipe dream. In the past year, Leo Burnett has absolutely demonstrated the sad reality. The place has unintentionally created solid case studies for dismantling the system.
For example, Digitas apparently won the Sprint account last December, leading a mythical “Team Sprint” with Leo Burnett on the roster. Yet it seems as if Burnett has seized control of the branding—producing painfully awful TV commercials—while the digital and direct portions sputter aimlessly. The sole bright note has been the elimination of spots featuring CEO Dan Hesse. This is not integrated marketing. It’s old-fashioned, dysfunctional corporate politics.
The Kellogg drama stars Leo Burnett and Arc Worldwide, a partnership of traditional advertising and below-the-line disciplines (although rumor has it that in the Chicago market, Arc’s bottom line is well above Burnett’s). According to Edwards’ probing, the defecting executives included SVP Kristy Gibbs, who allegedly is the only person who understands the Kellogg CRM database. Really? A $710 million account serviced by global agencies had just a single human being capable of overseeing a project? That’s not a very deep bench. Leo Burnett and Arc Worldwide obviously lack the resources and expertise to handle Kellogg’s broad needs. Hell, it’s likely that Burnett was too occupied churning out Allstate Mayhem commercials to notice what was happening with Kellogg. The agencies deserve to lose the project—and possibly the total business.
The illusion of integrated marketing goes beyond Leo Burnett and its mates. The same bullshit occurs with virtually every holding company coalition. And in most instances, the traditional advertising agency is the root cause of the problems, as these shops tend to believe integration starts with traditional advertising. This might work in an ideal universe, except the “big ideas” generated by traditional advertising agencies rarely consider the other disciplines, as these shops remain clueless about anything that is not traditional advertising. On the flip side, the non-traditional advertising agencies remain clueless about traditional advertising. Need proof? Find any commercial from Digitas or Razorfish that doesn’t thoroughly suck.
The dilemma extends to the simple fact that traditional advertising agencies, digital agencies, direct marketing agencies, promotional agencies, public relations agencies, etc. are each operating distinct business models. Clients even pay the different disciplines differently. Ever see a traditional advertising guy effectively run a digital agency, or a digital guy effectively run a traditional advertising agency? When the separate shops try to unify, the result is a contemporary Tower of Babel, where everyone is speaking their own language and no one can understand or translate the objectives and directions. Need more proof? Consider Draftfcb, Enfatico or the soon-to-crash Commonwealth. Hell, toss in Cavalry too.
So how does it all apply to diversity? Well, if adpeople have difficulty learning to coexist when there are actual professional motivations and benefits, it’s hard to imagine integration could succeed on a cultural level. As the above scenarios show, White folks can’t even stand dealing with White folks.