After a very long flight, I’m in LA for Forrester’s Marketing Forum, which kicks off on Tuesday.  Where one of my very pleasurable ‘duties’ will be a Q&A of main stage speaker Casey Jones.  Casey Jones is VP of Global Marketing for Dell and mastermind of the recent consolidation of Dell’s agency business with WPP. 

Casey wants to set a new standard for integrated communications.  See his FM interview from before and after taking the Dell job. 

Here’s what I’d like to know:  does consolidation really drive smart marketing integration?    The idea of a client-centric agency – albeit pushed to its extreme here – isn’t new.  Large clients have often been able to command dedicated cross-functional teams; sitting together, much like the O&IBM team I was a member of in Ogilvy’s Paris office.

Does everyone need to sit under the same roof – and in particular, in the same profit center – to align interests?  Dell’s point of view would seem to be yes.  And if the approach is supported by performance-based remuneration based on business results, it would certainly be compelling.

However, does one supplier work better than the ‘market’ and competition to drive efficiency and innovation?  There, I have my doubts.  It’s simplistic, but compare that to a client going to its various agencies and asking each ‘how would you spend the whole of my budget and what results could you deliver if you did.’  Then, with that vision, working with the agencies to build a smart, integrated plan.

True, the client has a bit of arbitrage to do in that exercise, but most of the large advertisers I’ve spoken with – at Coke, Nestlé and Procter for example – expect that.  They are more comfortable when not all their eggs are in the same basket. 

The second doubt I have is about one agency’s ability to intimately know and support – from a business perspective – very different and diverse target markets, with only a single client.  If you’ve read the Connected Agency, then you’ll know that I think agencies should evolve to a target-centric model.  But that vision works when the finely targeted consumer/customer groups are mutualized across a number of brands or clients. 

My first question to Casey Jones will be:  is Dell getting better integrated marketing out of the consolidation?   I’ll let you know what he says after Tuesday’s presentation. 

What question would you ask?