3ipgDon’t we all struggle a bit to keep up with the pace of information, innovation and technology, especially since it is taken-for-granted in the business environment to be informed about everything all the time?

Well that’s probably the reason why IPG Mediabrands came up with a game-changing idea. The global holding company of a network of media and specialty service agencies just announced this week that their teams are going ‘fully hybrid’.

The decision intends to dissolve the distinction between online and offline as well as making the planning and buying departments into one single entity. Early last year the company initiated “Project Hybrid” on the premise that the digital is mainstream and that lines demarcating online and offline must be erased, ensuring a cohesive marketing solution that places customers first. In fact, it means that the company is determined to break away from what has been the industry norm.

Just to give you a picture of the impact of the paradigm shift, consider that the company, founded by Interpublic Group (IPG) in 2007, manages all of its global media related assets this way. By now it employs over 8,500 diverse and daring marketing communication specialists that operate in more than 127 countries who are dealing with $36 billion in global media on the behalf of their clients.

Since the greatest barrier to seamless innovation usually is found within the organizational structure, not within research and development or marketing, Prashant Kumar, CEO of IPG Mediabrands for World Markets Asia came to the conclusion that people responsible for different departments and their strategies, shouldn’t be in separate silos. In order to avoid a disjointed experience for the consumer or client which consequently could hurt engagement and loyalty, he made clear that online and offline brand touch points are not experienced in isolation of each other, but that innovation which builds seamless experiences deepens connections and brand value.

For me it seems that Prashant Kumar understands the communicative ecology pretty well, a conceptual model used in the field of media and communications by researchers to take a holistic approach to understanding the dynamic interrelationships between social dimensions, discourse and communications technology in both physical and digital environments. His decision is based on the principle that consumers view the brand as a whole and accordingly, planners must become adept at handling online and offline media to bring one single marketing solution.

Well, indeed consumers increasingly move seamlessly between offline and online, and hence marketing or media must reflect that. If people which have the closest view of and influence on consumer insights and marketing decisions, depend on another department to interpret for them how that other half will behave, what you get is not a whole but sum of the parts, besides a lot of uneconomic complexity.

The change “Project Hybrid” brought to IPG Mediabrands is the fact that teams across the region are capable of creating digital/cross-media plans, while all TV buyers are now capable to sell digital video and digital TV ads. Each of them had at least one campaign executed and some are now required to do advanced planning and strategy.

Concerted efforts were made to accelerate the integration and to achieve 90% compliance by an April 30th timeline. Consequently digital planners and buyers were either repurposed as ‘superspecialists’ in areas such as Search, Social, Creative Services and Real Time Buying, or turned into integrated planners and buyers. Similarly integrated planners were compulsorily required to be hybrid and be comfortable with digital much the similar way they would be with traditional media.

A series of intensive training programs was also launched over the past twelve months, coupled with deep changes in structure, KPIs, incentive systems, infusion of a range of new capabilities, and various cultural initiatives to eliminate the line between online and offline.

Certainly, the level of hybrid skills may vary significantly amongst the range of integrated leaders/planners/buyers and the KPIs to take accountability for integrating digital into mainstream recommendation is set high. However, each one is now seeking to embrace the new picture and make concerted and enthusiastic efforts to fill the skills gap, since all are cognizant that the landscape is shifting fast.

"Today, digital is the mainstream - not a speciality. It is the second largest medium globally as well as in many of the Asian markets. The lines we draw between offline and online are anachronistic and actually only exist in the minds of those in denial of the new reality,” stated Prashant Kumar, CEO of IPG Mediabrands for World Markets Asia. "A commitment to going ‘hybrid’ is a commitment to the future of our talent, as we have no doubt that the future in our industry will belong to those who will be comfortable with old and new media.”

IPG Mediabrands’ approach to ‘Hybrid’ sets the new norm in the industry that continues to have strong delineation between online and offline. This means there is no online marketing vs. offline marketing, but just marketing; there is no TV vs. online video, but just video.

“We wanted to make a decisive break from the usual approach and embrace the future where the starting point for every marketing solution is the brand’s objective and the consumer. It could be the biggest opportunity of our times in media and marketing productivity and we believe half-hearted efforts won't do. We must lead the future," concluded Kumar.

By Daniela La Marca