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Taking Cues From the Customer: "Omnichannel" and the Drive for Audience Engagement

A Winterberry Group White Paper, June 2013


Introduction and Executive Summary

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 Conelissen 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

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