Edelman jumps into the integrated agency space

This one kinda makes me a bit queasy for some of you out there. Only because integrated agencies have a hard enough time as it is competing against each other. Now, there’s more competition out there. Edelman, long known to be one of these massive PR shops, is getting into the integrated space. They’re doing it through Ruth. Here’s the Ad Age story. To be clear, I didn’t see “advertising” on Ruth’s wheel o’ integrated services. But what new agency would say that nowadays, anyway?

Spend some time on their site, then come on back. What do you think? Here’s what yours truly saw:

  • Should you share a client with these guys, you now have even more reason to worry. Now, Edelman can take an idea and make money on moving it through other channels and mediums. They’ve probably been doing this for some time, choosing to bring in local partners to execute on a scalable, as-needed basis. Ruth could be seen as formalizing this model. And it groups together the existing in-house skill set. (Along with the resources they can tap into outside the agency.)
  • An absence of…proprietary processes and branded approaches. The old fuddy duddy in me misses it. To me, this is what a lot of agencies use as the “because” in the “convince-that-because” strategy. But the realist in me suggests that this is yet another agency that sees the value in not spending too much time on their “unique” approach – many clients don’t care about your special process. They care that however it gets done, you can do it again and again.
  • They’re jumping on board the innovation bandwagon. From the site: “Ruth excels at creative innovation that hits home and builds loyalty—the kind of bond that allows brands to create lasting change and spur sales.”
  • Fairly straightforward site could do a better job of calling out their client results.
  • Message inconsistencies across their engagement channels. Their website says different things than their Facebook page.
  • For what it’s worth, I like the idea of naming the agency after a woman’s personality. At first, it seemed a little too shiny and ego-centric. But many agencies have built their brands around personalities. It’s a proven method for revenue growth. And if there’s a true, unique style that’s associated with Ruth, I could see a prospective client wanting to meet her.
  • What was missing for me, though, was a bit of the reason why Ruth exists. Gimme something – a competitive, client or brand insight – that justifies why the brand should be at the table. They had it in the 10/4/10 press release that announces the agency. “As content becomes a primary driver of brand interaction, we’re broadening the ways we help clients deliver rich experiences and connect and build loyalty with their audiences.” So, a content-driven shop. Make this easier to see on the site.

Having spent a bit more time on Edelman to write this post, I have to say, “wow.”  I was impressed with what I saw on the parent company’s website. They seem to be doing a lot of things right with regard to new business. They also have a number of other specialty businesses and will probably be using that as their template for Ruth.

Can a PR agency provide an integrated suite of marcom services? In a client’s eyes, I’d have to say yes, Bob. And it will be very interesting to keep an eye on Ruth’s future.