Breaking Down the Barriers Between Communications, Digital and Advertising

If you ask David Axelrod or David Plouffe they will tell you that the Obama campaign never set out to run a digital campaign. They just knew that if they ran a traditional campaign they were going to lose. This made them open to good ideas supported by data.

This is the same challenge faced by chief marketing and communications officers every day in the corporate world. Gone are the days of the digital disruption being so new and scary that companies needed one firm to build a website, another to place their digital advertising, one to handle press and online outreach, and two kids in Brooklyn for social media.

Today, the walls have broken down between communications, digital, and advertising. Digital is no longer a product to buy — it is fully integrated into communications strategy — and has transformed communications itself. Most of all, with so many potential channels and forms of communications, clients don’t want a series of siloed vendors. They want a partner to solve their problem in a comprehensive way. This is why Bully Pulpit Interactive has decided to invest in a strategic acquisition of The Incite Agency.

BPI president Andrew Bleeker and The Incite Agency president Ben LaBolt. Photo credit: Jocelyn Augustino

When we first worked together on the Obama campaign back in 2008, the communications team sat across the office from the “new media” team, what we called digital back then. Collaboration occurred, but was infrequent. By 2012, we learned that there was a better way: full integration. Today, we bring the promise of that integration to our clients.

Coming from the shared experience of politics in the Obama era, both Incite and BPI have taken the same approach — identifying and persuading target audiences by applying the lessons from politics to companies and causes. Both teams share an innate desire to do meaningful work for clients we care about, to allow the data that really matters be our guide, and to never stop innovating and learning. We also both boast teams of whip smart experts who share a culture of collaboration and innovation in business and politics with a side of good humor, quick wits, plentiful snacks, and stiff drinks.

BPI president Andrew Bleeker, Incite president Ben LaBolt, BPI COO Ann Marie Habershaw, BPI partners Eliza Lockwood, Ben Coffey Clark, Mark Skidmore, Tim Lim and BPI managing director, Mike Schneider. Photo credit: Jocelyn Augustino

But individually, we were limited. Incite developed a modern and winning approach to strategic communications while BPI honed its skills offering advertising, full-service digital campaigns, and analytics. We both understood that compelling communications are not about education — they are defined by activation and persuasion. However, we found ourselves in positions where our clients valued our strategic counsel but where we lacked the full breadth of services to take a ‘first chair’ seat, where we oversee full program implementation. We have long been friends and colleagues, and at times competed to recruit from the same pool of talent, but it was this shared DNA that got us talking about the potential of combining forces. Not surprisingly, it began over drinks at SXSW.

The battle in communications today is a race for the center, that lead strategic chair with the capacity to execute flawlessly across channels. Historically, most mergers in the digital space result from larger traditional agencies trying to bolt on digital services to help them modernize. Few of these succeed and divisions remain either for cultural or financial reasons.

Members of the newly expanded senior leadership team at BPI’s offices this week. Photo credit: Jocelyn Augustino

We are trying a new approach. Instead of joining a traditional agency — and we both had the opportunity to do so — we are building something new. Digital is the new foundation that connects the various silos and channels of marketing and communications. We believe teams will be more successful by adding specific skills and services to a solid digital strategic base than the alternative. We believe that organizations are most likely to succeed by communicating a unified message across divisions and channels.

Supported by Svoboda Capital Partners LLC we will have the resources to make the investments in people and technology to win hearts and change minds by breaking down barriers.

We are just at the beginning of this journey. But we believe we best serve both our teams and our clients by charting this course together. You can read the formal announcement here, but please drop us a line and tell us how you think we’re doing. More to come.

Andrew Bleeker is President of Bully Pulpit Interactive. Ben LaBolt is President of The Incite Agency.