The Richards Group is far from the only agency to lose a client after a long relationship, and it won't be the last. But that doesn't lessen the sting much.
Longtime agency-client relationships end for a number of reasons -- among them new management at the client, slipping sales or a need for new capabilities. But depending on how it's handled, the loss of a marquee account can send shockwaves through an agency, with the potential to damage the shop's reputation or spur the loss of talent.
"One thing agencies should do is understand if you had anything to do with losing the account," said Avi Dan, CEO of Avidan Strategies, noting that an agency should do a realistic assessment after a loss. "Sometimes it's just a matter of a new CMO coming in, but sometimes the agency does contribute to it."
An agency should worry more over a string of losses than one departure, even a big one, Mr. Dan added.
A search consultant who wished to remain anonymous said The Richards Group "is more than just Chick-fil-A," with big clients like Home Depot, but the fast feeder's loss is "more emotional because they really put Chick-fil-A on the map." The consultant added that "20 years in this competitive category is amazing."