Exploring the Challenges of Incorporating Social Media into Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)
The emergence of social media has provided numerous benefits for organisations and become a vital component of their marketing strategies. However, marketers still face several challenges in incorporating social media into integrated marketing communications (IMC) programs. Thus, this thesis aims at understanding how advertising agencies integrate social media into IMC and investigates the challenges that advertising agencies in Australia and the United Arab Emirates face in integrating social media into IMC programs. The purpose of this study is to answer the following three questions: first, what are the challenges that advertising agencies face when integrating social media into IMC programs? Second, how do advertising agencies overcome the challenges of integrating social media into IMC programs? Third, what is the role of the RBV in the agency–client relationship? I adopted a mixed methods approach to develop a comprehensive understanding of the research issue. In the preliminary study, I employed semi-structured interviews with 30 advertising campaign specialists responsible for developing social media campaigns and integrating them into IMC programs. The concepts and insights gained from this qualitative study then enabled the development of a questionnaire for a quantitative study. I distributed the questionnaire to 53 advertising campaign specialists, which yielded 159 observations (53 participants × 3 campaigns). The results reveal seven challenges that influence the incorporation of social media into IMC programs: risk acceptance, budget, client expertise, trust, target audience, agency–client collaboration and brand strategy. These challenges are responsible for many conflicts between advertising agencies and clients that decrease the level of social media integration into IMC programs. Clients may have the required resources, but the major issue underlying the failure to integrate social media into an IMC program is that the resources are not used in a collaborative way. Furthermore, the clients have a greater responsibility and can substantially assist their advertising agencies to avoid or overcome these challenges because they have a significant influence on their advertising agencies. Therefore, clients need to work with their advertising agencies in a collaborative way to effectively share and utilise resources to deliver a high level of social media integration into their IMC program. The thesis concludes by providing theoretical contributions, managerial implications, research limitations and recommendations for further research.