Why Marketers Are Trading One Agency for Many

A Look at Why This Trend Is Evolving so Quickly

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Brownstein Marc Brownstein
Changes in our business don't take years to take root. They take months. Case in point: I'm seeing a new trend in clients firing their AOR (whatever that means these days) and hiring not one replacement agency, but rather several. Yes, one is replaced by many.

Now you would think that this move would cause clients to have to invest a lot more sweat equity into managing multiple agency relationships. And you're right. But it's worth peeling back the layers to see why this trend is evolving so quickly.

It appears that some clients started their agency courtship with one agency with the purest of intentions. It was love on both parts. And, for a while, the marriage was blissful. But as the relationship wore on, and the many moving parts of the agency-client relationship turned, love turned to frustration. And eventually to a lack of confidence. Now, there is nothing new to this scenario; it has happened in every service-industry relationship over many decades. What has changed, however, is how clients are approaching the new relationship. Or, more accurately, relationships.

I believe there are a few reasons clients are firing one agency and hiring many:
  1. The client feels burned by the first agency. The relationship started with champagne and ended in disillusioned tears. Now it is stuck with a lot of work that needs to get done, and an agency it doesn't trust to do it. It doesn't want that to happen again.

  2. There is no inherent desire to manage multiple relationships. That is frankly tumultuous. But what it does is allow various agencies to zero in on their core competencies, and have agencies play to their strengths for various parts of the client's business.

  3. Optimizes each agency by keeping them on their toes with competing agencies vying for the attention and respect of the same client on a daily basis.
All three scenarios also allow agencies to compete for the consolidated account once again (which I believe will eventually happen). The agency that creates the most effective work over time just might be named the Agency of Record (still don't know what that really means). The truth is, it is simply easier to manage one shop.

This trend from one to many agencies on the same account may be very smart on the part of clients. If the agency community delivered every day after winning the pitch, there'd likely be more dedicated relationships, and this trend wouldn't grow at the rate it is.
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