It's one thing to say it and show it in a presentation but it is something entirely different to live it day in and day out.
Integration is a lot harder than it looks but I am sure most of us can attest to the fact that it looks much better from the outside than it does on the inside. Most clients in South Africa have 2-3 agencies working on their business. Most likely a Communications/ATL creative agency, a digital agency and a media agency. Take all of these various personalities into account, different ways of doing strategy, varied opinions on direction and implementation and you can only imagine the chaos that would ensue.
This is probably a quarter of the reason why we as agencies have so many late nights in this industry. But one thing we have to realize is that Integration just like life is a journey and not a destination. It goes beyond a few meetings between agencies 2-3 days before a presentation to agree on order of slides and a run through of what each will be presenting so that we can ensure we are all singing off the same hymn sheet or as we call it "alignment".
To have all these agencies working towards one goal takes a level of guidance from clients. Ideas/presentations cannot be accepted without all parts being considered. Strong personalities within the agencies need not only fight for delivery of an integrated approach but must also be willing to let go of their egos within their own discipline and accept that an integrated strategy/approach may come from another discipline. They must realize that a solid strategy is only created when the whole is much greater than the sum of all the parts.
Then there's also the question of how these agencies go about doing their daily work and if they should all work in the same building, sitting together as a team.
My initial thinking (partly inspired by a good friend of mine who also took a stab at this integration question) would be that this would only be feasible if this "team" is sitting in a neutral place outside of the influences of their individual agencies to allow the team to focus on their work away from the distractions that come with sitting at an agency with other potential client or ad hoc work that may come into the system.
The counter argument to this is that from time to time, especially in the media space (excuse the bias) you would need to be at your agency to handle the admin that comes in once media is booked and running.
This is true in most if not all cases and so a healthy balance between neutral environment and agency environment needs to be struck especially once you are out of strategy phases.
And so it is my belief that true integration isn't reliant on all parties being in one room bashing out ideas and hoping to arrive at one solution but rather a meeting of minds that understand that the one central idea is what underpins the entire thing. The execution thereof is just the mix of tactics and disciplines that will bring it to life.
Whether we are sitting in one building or in separate buildings if the idea is what drives us as an integrated team then our thinking is aligned regardless of geography.