Would killing off the agency of record model really be a smart move for brands?

The Drum has assembled an enviable panel of magnificent minds from the industry and beyond to identify the latest trends and brilliant ideas shaping our space. Here’s what’s been exciting them lately…

Chobani has moved towards a project-based model

The agency of record has come under fire of late as brands including Chobani move towards a project-based model. But as Ogilvy & Mather’s Adam Tucker explains, an agency team that lives and breathes your brand is a hard thing to beat.

​Brands such as Best Buy, Chobani and Frito Lay’s sent the ad industry a clear message last month: the agency of record (AOR) model is dead and they’re moving towards a ‘project-based agency partner’ one.

They argue the world has changed. The proliferation of digital and social media has opened up thousands of new opportunities for brands to connect with people. They no longer need advertising; they need content. In this environment and in their view, the AOR model is restricting and outdated.

One cannot fault clients for seeking the best ideas and content for their brands. This new world requires an experimentation mindset. Clearly these clients embrace a more open-plan environment to managing agencies.

However, the AOR debate ignores a fundamental truth about our business: it’s a people business and people make the difference. We are emotional creatures. We flourish in relationships and teams. Trust, confidence, respect and mutual understanding are innate human needs.

As the world has grown more complex, brands matter more than ever. Finding a passionate, inspired, ambitious agency team that will live and breathe your brand can make all the difference.

A thriving agency relationship is a competitive business advantage. Clients seeking to change agencies at every brief will never form the level of deep relationship that fosters trust and loyalty; the kind of relationship committed humans have with one another.

Instead, they risk instilling fear and insecurity into the creative process; a process already daunting enough when the page is blank.

Throughout my career, the best work always comes when:

• The agency feels and acts as an extension of the client’s team

• The client and agency have built deep trust and respect over time

• The conversation is constant, honest, and candid

• The teams are aligned around a creative vision

• The agency team genuinely believes in the client’s business and brand

Clients moving from the AOR model might think twice about whether they’re creating ideal conditions for relationships to grow and great ideas to flourish.

At Ogilvy, we’ve demonstrated ‘membership’ for American Express is just as meaningful as it was 30 years ago. Or as Dove’s ‘Campaign For Real Beauty’ celebrates 10 years, it’s only through deeply committed, enduring relationships that these brand ideas can grow and flourish.

I do agree we must welcome new client partner agencies to the table. We must foster a cross-agency collaboration where great ideas can come from anywhere. We must be far less paranoid and territorial and far more focused ensuring the cross-agency team works in service of the brand.

When we created the original programme for Walker’s ‘Do Us A Flavour’ (now running globally for Lay’s), AMV BBDO, Freud PR, and OMD all worked together in the one room to create the core thought. No one recalls which agency first suggested the idea, because no one took note. Two years later the same team partnered to create Walker’s ‘Sandwich’ and took home a Creative Effectiveness Grand Prix in Cannes. Cross-agency collaboration works.

While I’m sure more brands are reconsidering the agency AOR model, you should first ask yourself, when was the last time you sat with your agency team and discussed the relationship?

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