In the end, we saw six types of alignment structures and we classified each of the final 40 accordingly


1. Multiple Best in Class Agencies

In this model, the marketer leads integration – choosing the best possible creative, media, digital, PR and event agencies regardless of their parents – and then has the task to put them together.  This is by far the most common method we see – the “best of breed” and it occurred in 38% of cases in our analysis.  The challenge with it, is that it puts a lot of onus back on the marketer – companies such as Coca-Cola have now set up IMC teams just to “herd all the cats”.

2. Lead Agency Model

Done to its full extent, as P&G has tried over the years with its “Brand Agency Leader” model , this structure puts the pressure back to the lead agency to drive integration.  We saw this model in 25% of cases, and what was more interesting was to read the examples where someone other than a creative agency was taking the lead (32% of occasions) – the world did not end, and the campaign was still executed brilliantly.   Expect to see more of this model in the future.


3. Sibling Agency Model

When the Holding Company was “invented” , this was no doubt the integration model in everyone’s mind.  That it only occurred in 20% of the cases of the final 40 suggests it may yet to be seen as the optimal model for the future.  In this structure, there’s a simplicity in the working process, but a potential lack of flexibility for the marketer when things go wrong. No one is ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

4. Holding Company Custom Agency

Much loved by Apple.  Envied by others.  Tried by Dell in the past.  Working well for Ford, Colgate and others, this is essentially about a holding company pooling resources into a dedicated 100% team within a holding group.  This can only work well for clients with scale, but of course, has its own challenges with attracting the best creative talent and breakthrough thinking.

Custom Agency
Free Agent

5. Free Agent

Here in this era of crowdsourcing and social, will this be a new model whose time is to come?   We look at Sony, with its nine roster agencies fighting on a project by project basis.  This has also been an approach tried by Intel in the past.  What the marketer gains in total flexibility of creative resources , it surely loses in terms of strategic governance and contribution.  Unilever and JWT just celebrated 115 years together – how would both companies be performing if it was only 115 days?

6. One Stop Shop

A relic of the Mad Men days, but still the common approach in Japan, Korea and Brazil, along with smaller marketers who simply can’t afford multiple agencies.   For every person who dreams of creative and media agencies merging back again , there must surely be two who recognize the giant strides in media sophistication that has occurred with them apart.  While we saw this in 10% of our relationships. We wonder in five years time if this will be the case.

One Stop

Through reviewing so much work and looking at so many different approaches, six general trends emerged

  • Big ideas lie at the heart of success

A good integration process can help a bad idea, but it won’t save it. To deliver such a voice, marketers and agencies must steep themselves in an inherently iterative process of looking to the brand idea as the guiding star for all decisions, directions, and strategies.

  • Define the chain of command

A multiple agency marriage void of any kind of framework is a recipe for disaster.  To achieve a working relationship between marketers and multiple agencies working towards a better brand, roles and expectations must be defined clearly from the onset.

  • Think about “Curate” as much as “Create”

The marketing world can be a destructive place for ideas.  Look for good thinking from your past, from your competitors, from your consumers.  The best agencies have accepted this and have learned to ‘curate’ content from others.

  • Promote accountability through taking measurable action

Human beings respond to the right sort of motivation and accountability.

Without transparency in money or the right metrics in place from the very beginning, performance will be limited to a budget-first mindset.

  • Training Matters

Integration is like riding a bike – you do get better with practice.    The reality is, leading companies are investing as much as 10% of their marketing team time into training .

  • Companies like P&G, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Nestle and others continue to be the best-in-class brands when it comes to integration

These firms attract and retain the best talent, push their agencies in different ways, and motivate the concept of truly “coming together”.

Integration matters – to the world’s best marketers, their agencies and to us .  We hope you enjoy the cases