Driving and talking about integrated marketing transformation today definitely seems to be all the rage. We see talk and announcements across the agency spectrum, loaded with the usual buzzwords. From using AI through to programmatic ad buying through to branded content. At Cannes this year much of the conversation revolved around integration and tools to enable it as well.

What we have seen though, during the past year of profound transformation at Edelman Amsterdam, is that real change does not come from buzzwords.  It does not come from using the latest tools for our clients. It does not come from the biggest or shiniest briefs.

Instead, genuine and real movement toward full marketing integration comes from addressing the fundamentals of our agency business. It requires honesty, investment and collaboration.


It requires honest conversation with your staff, as you make the case for change, redefine roles and, at times, have difficult conversations about skills gaps and difficult decisions about the future size and shape of your organisation.  For example, an early change at Edelman was to remove practice directors and other team leaders from our structure and move to a fully integrated, matrix-driven model where the client leader sits truly at the heart of any team.

Honest conversations are also required with clients, who (at times) have grown accustomed to unpaid planning and rewarding the fruits of ideation through execution budgets. This is a practice that is entirely unsuited to a channel-agnostic, truly integrated approach which places business impact above channel or practice ideology.


Driving real integration amongst teams also requires investment.  Not only in tools such as ‘James’, our integrated resource planning and HR capabilities tool that was developed locally and now scaled across Edelman operations (let’s call Marcel, Publicis’ recently-announced tool, a sincere form of flattery).

More critically, it requires investment in the right talent, such as a new form of leader who can operate in a complex, fluid environment, which in our case are our ‘Client & Content Leads’ – or senior client strategists. Capabilities such as planning, insights, strategy, video, VR and digital paid require both talent and a conducive ecosystem around them: the support and air cover they need to embed in the business, learning how their skillset fits into the earned media heritage of PR.


Finally, real change requires a completely new mindset.  A business-objectives-first mindset toward client needs means concepts like ‘consumer,’ ‘digital’ and even ‘PR’ become secondary notions to truly integrated strategies, programming and activation. In integrated communications and marketing, no silo or agency P&L can ‘win all.’ Instead, ‘all win.’

In our experience, this shift is the real prize to unlock as you transform: the point of inflection where the change moves from theory to practice and new work, in new areas begins.

Arent Jan Hesselink (General Manager)
Wieteke Beerepoot (Chief Operations Officer)
Edelman Amsterdam