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Guest Article: Nanda Kishore Sethuraman: What goes around comes around

It is great to have intelligence distributed and specialised across various media vehicles and marketing tools. But agencies must be willing to provide a single window operation.

Patient: Doctor! I have severe toothache
Doctor: Which one?
P: Molars, incisors, canines. The whole thing!
D: Ah! I can only treat you for your right molar. For the left you have to meet Dr. Blahblah, for the incisors you should meet Dr. Blublu.

Nanda Kishore Sethuraman

Aren't we living in the age of specialists? I won't be surprised when the above conversation becomes a reality. May be it already is!

Ok! What does all this have to do in a Marketing/Advertising/Communications site?

A seemingly innocuous tweet a few days ago by Mubin Khan (http://twitter.com/khan_mubin) triggered a small conversation and hence this post. The conversation is here and had participation from some senior industry professionals.

My two cents! Marketers are dogged by a few issues:

• The job of marketers is not just handling communications. They have many other issues which are unique to each industry.

• The job of 'integrated communications' which was once given to 'one consultant' has now become fragmented.

• The few who can afford to be and still are integrated communications consultants are too big for many marketers to afford.

Tweet

What does this lead to?

a. Marketers are trying to 'in-source' many of the activities and are trying to handle the 'single message' by pulling strings with many specialists.

b. In the process, marketers tend to spend a lot of bandwidth trying to keep the one-ness of the communication pieces and find themselves at unease in handling the other pieces required for organisation growth.

c. Specialists come armed with 'specific knowledge' which probably is best for that particular vehicle (say SEM/SEO) and almost thrust it down the marketer's throat, leading to further fragmentation of communication.

It is true that we need to have specialists who know more and more of less and less. But there is something called the overall health, which is always at the doorstep of peril. In the process of treating the right molar, the overall health of the patient shall not get compromised. We are heading there, pretty much!

Full Circle?

When computing started, there was a central processor and thin/dumb clients. With the PC revolution, we had 'intelligence' transferred to the computer you were working on. The central servers retained/enhanced their intelligence, but were of limited use. And today is the age of cloud computing! Although the intelligence has now been distributed to the servers, the clients and the entire network, but still we operate from a client - a single window. At one level, it looks like we've come full circle.

Maybe that's something the advertising industry needs to learn from! It is great to have intelligence distributed and specialised across various media vehicles and marketing tools. But agencies (I'd rather use the term consultant-executors) must be willing to provide a single window to operate from. Any solution that is required can be achieved from the same window.

Even if there are specialist agencies as separate entities, the services can still be offered under a single banner. This would ensure that 'Integrated Communications' is achieved without taxing the marketer's bandwidth. That's precisely what the agencies of the 90s used to do. The marketers loved it!

Few agencies have taken to that direction, but the problem is 'it is few'.

Going a full circle and providing a single window for integrated marketing communications would certainly bring back the friendly neighbourhood marketer's love.

What say?

Thanks are in order to Mubin Khan, Paritosh Joshi, Lynn De Souza and Ravi Kiran.

The author is head, marketing, BOI AXA Investment Managers.

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