The difference between advertising and integrated marketing communications


When I was a marketing student, a long time ago, I did not study integrated marketing communications. Instead, I studied advertising and sales management as separate subjects. That was the way it was taught in university and that was the way it was practiced in real organizations. (In the sales/promotion era of marketing.)

For most of my corporate marketing career, which was primarily in financial services, these areas were generally as independent section/departments. In one organization, we had the advertising area, the direct marketing area, the call center, product development, and media relations all structured independently. There was very little integrated and discussion between them they tended to pursue their own goals and objectives.

To highlight this below are two videos that illustrate the extremes – of an advertising driven organization (from 1970) to an integrated marketing communications strategy that executes the overall corporate plan. They are two financial institutions, both banks, a little more than 40 years apart – but together they provide an excellent comparison of the difference between of advertising (as an independent part of a company) and truly integrated marketing communications.

An example of an advertising driven organization

This first video highlights Crocker Bank from 1970. It is taken from a documentary on the advertising industry entitled Art & Copy. If you have an interest in the advertising industry as your career, then I would suggest that the full documentary is very well worth viewing.

The video concentrates on the ad agency that put together the campaign. As you will see the campaign became “too successful” in a number of ways. You may also notice a famous song “we’ve only just begun” that has since become a classic and was written for the television commercial.

An overview of the Crocker Bank ad campaign

This particular TV commercial is a good example of what we call the “big idea” in advertising. The Crocker Bank ad was built around an emotional central theme of helping young people get started and succeed in life. The images were very emotional and a lot of young couples (and their parents) would have identified with it quite strongly. The fact that the jingle/support song became a smash hit and very popular throughout the country, would have certainly helped build that emotional impact as well.

It important to keep in mind that at time in the banking industry, banks were not overly open and flexible – not like today, where they are far more marketing oriented. And as becomes apparent in the quick video with Hal Riney, it is clear that Crocker Bank had no marketing integration either.

Their advertising department appeared to operate completely independently of the firm’s overall strategy. This is demonstrated by there being no suitable products, application processes, or supportive staff being put in place. In other words, the entire strategy was built around this TV commercial only.

Consistent with this “advertising as an independent area” approach, the Crocker Bank TV commercial appear to have a very good insight to the needs and motivations of the target market, yet this information was not shared and executed in other parts of overall marketing strategy.

Unlike integrated marketing communications today, we see no real concept of internal marketing. In fact, we get the impression that existing sales and branch staff would not overly pleased to deal with large numbers of young people. These sales people would have had a significant role to play in the overall success or failure of any promotional campaign.

When you consider the lack of integration with strategy and the reluctance of key sales staff (due to no internal marketing), it is clear that the advertising message was completely inconsistent with the offering and direction of the firm at that time.

Therefore, this TV commercial and related discussion on Art & Copy stand is a great example of the old era of advertising (the forerunner of marketing) being an isolated an independent part of the organization.

An example of a truly integrated marketing communications

This second video highlights a major campaign undertaken by the National Australia Bank (NAB). As you will see, this is probably one of the best executed campaigns that you will see, given that it uses so many different communication tools and its core message was effectively communicated in a very short period time.

This NAB repositioning campaign is extremely different to the prior Crocker Bank example. It is undertaken as a clear implementation of their overall corporate strategy and is strongly supported by all the marketing mix elements and with a strong internal marketing program.

An overview of the NAB repositioning campaign

Probably the first point to take note of is that the campaign is driven by a strong understanding of consumers, which is obviously research based. They make reference of existing consumer attitudes and how they planned to leveraged that in order to get people to think differently about the bank.

This leads into the second point that there were clear goals and outcome expectations for the campaign – whereas the Crocker Bank TV commercial was quite vague in terms of what it wanted to achieve.

The National Australia Bank campaign was highly integrated with the rest of the marketing mix strategy. In fact, the promotional elements were put in place after all the products and infrastructure and corporate culture was created. They had set up appropriate new products, they had re-priced to provide better value – and they clearly worked very hard with their people (both in sales contact roles and in management) to ensure that the overall strategy would be executed effectively.

There was also a broad variety of communication tools used, including some that are not listed on video, including direct marketing and street promotions teams. It should be clear that the overall timing, planning and execution of this campaign was absolutely extraordinary. Compare this to the prior example where there appeared to be little planning outside the actual TV commercial.

Final point to know about the use of integrated marketing communication from the NAB is a list of marketing metrics they put at the end of the video. This indicates that there are clear goals, controls, and the organization appears to be utilizing this information to track their performance and plan their future strategies.

Related topics

The four stages of integrated marketing communications (IMC)
The definition of integrated marketing communications (IMC)


Scroll to Top