The year was 1972. And in a boardroom on Madison Avenue in New York, executives at the firm of Young & Rubicam (then, and now as Y&R, one of the largest agencies in the world) concocted what would soon be recognized as one of the most audacious strategies in advertising history.
They called the approach “The Whole Egg,” and its premise was simple. The quality of their clients’ marketing programs—across broadcast and print media, public relations, direct marketing and all the other addressable channels of the time—would be substantially improved if they were driven by one agency. Their responsibility, in turn: to unify the creation and execution of content, media and other functions central to the growth of their clients’ brands. Deploy these efforts seamlessly, the theory held, and both clients and the agency would prosper.
At first, the marketplace snickered. (“The notion commonly inspired outsider comments ranging from ‘No kidding’ to ‘They’ve got to be kidding,’” wrote Advertising Age in 1999.) But over time, the premise would give rise to an array of successor movements—known variously as “integrated marketing,” “multichannel,” “connected,” “multiscreen” and others—that promised blockbuster results from following a similar approach. The financial promise of a media-optimized future, with messaging unified across both digital and traditional disciplines, seemed just too bright to ignore.
One problem, though. More than 40 years after Y&R introduced “The Whole Egg”—and seemingly just as long since terms like “integrated marketing” have been baked into the advertising industry discourse—the market is still snickering.
“As much as Y&R Inc. touted the ‘Whole Egg’ approach, which it pioneered and cultivated among its agencies, I rarely saw how this synergistic methodology created something bigger than any of its unilateral parts.” —PETER HIMLER, FORBES.COM, 2012
“Despite its pervasive penetration in the marketing and communication management world, little has been said, however, about [integrated marketing’s] theoretical robustness as well as its actual significance for marketing and advertising thought and practice…. [It’s] a management fashion....“ — JOEP CORNELISSEN AND ANDREW LOCK, JOURNAL OF ADVERTISING RESEARCH, 2000
“One needs only to click clumsily around the Web to stumble upon discussion after discussion over the importance of ‘multichannel’ marketing.... The greatest distinction I’ve found is that which lies between the various degrees of bullshit that cover this entire topic.” — WILJO KRECHTING, ECOMPUNK.COM, 2013
Today, in spite of the skeptics, advances in media, data and technology have once again focused attention on the opportunity inherent in integrating content and the delivery of messages across media. But whereas “The Whole Egg” was squarely focused on expanding the scope of an agency to support this effort (and subsequent “multichannel” movements have been aimed mostly at keeping pace with the fragmentation of consumer attention across an expanding number of media outlets), enterprise brands and their media partners are now looking for something fundamentally different: real, tangible, heightened value from their consumer relationships.
That value, proponents say, can only come through the enrichment of audience engagement: the ongoing dialogue between consumer and marketer that spans paid and owned media, points of sale and other touchpoints. In turn, more companies are adopting the terminology of the retail industry and gravitating to omnichannel customer strategies—which seek to promote a long-term, channel-agnostic approach to managing, and optimizing, these relationships.
But in an industry long accustomed to dismissing such approaches as faddish, buzzwordy or just plain obvious, what makes “omnichannel” different from other approaches? What does it mean to be omnichannel? What are the benefits that marketers (as well as their media partners) stand to enjoy from adopting such strategies? And what real-world constraints are standing in the way of those seeking to make this transformation?
This white paper, produced in partnership with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, will explore the origins and likely evolution of omnichannel customer engagement strategies. Based on an intensive primary research effort, it will demonstrate that:
Interest in the omnichannel approach is surging across virtually all segments of the marketing ecosystem, with 91.7 percent of panelists agreeing that such strategies drive “real value,” and 82.4 percent saying they intend on investing in the same in the near future
While omnichannel strategies stand to deliver a host of rewards that span marketing applications, panelists said they expect the brand identity and recognition benefits of such an approach to be the most significant of all—outstripping even clear performance gains such as “higher response rates” and “revenue growth”
The role of advertising in supporting omnichannel strategies will rely on continued adoption of audience-centered media formats; while 25 percent of panelists said such cross-platform products are “very important” in driving customer engagement today, a whopping 79 percent believe they will be crucial in the near future; and
The inherent constraints of existing media channels do not represent a substantial challenge to the deployment of omnichannel strategies. By comparison, gaps with respect to supporting technologies and internal business processes continue to hamper marketer and publisher attempts to achieve wider transformation.
Finally, the paper will outline six key competencies that define what marketers and publishers will need in order to capitalize on the omnichannel promise in the years ahead. They include:
Customer Analytics and Multiplatform Attribution… the foundations of a deeper understanding of the customer and the engagement strategy best tuned to her needs
Rich Content—Optimized for Context and Strategic Intent… enhancing the value of every consumer interaction, and supporting a range of tactics addressing both branding and performance marketing priorities
Operational Infrastructure Geared to the Needs of Customer Engagement… including media buying and selling tools that support various channels (and metrics), as well as business processes, incentive structures and key performance indicators aligned with the same
Cross-Platform, Audience-Driven Media Products… allowing advertisers to more readily identify and engage with customer segments through their chosen platforms
Integration of Deeply Engaging—Yet Effectively “Disconnected”—Media Channels… including addressable television, mobile video, out-of-home media and others; and
Elevation of the “Omnichannel Strategist” as a Senior Role… ensuring accountability and coordination of customer decisioning, product development, pricing and other critical functions.