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Refusal to Defend a Review: The Right Move?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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News has been coming out nearly daily about brands putting up their creative and media accounts for review. In most cases, the brands already on the roster know that this is going to happen. In few cases, those agencies find out when the AdLand public does.

Throughout the years, we have seen several ways that agencies have approached the review process.

When the review involves a holding company (WPP, Omnicom, Publicis), we typically see the company use its vast resources to shift the business from one agency to another one within its holdings so the brand gets a change yet the holding company retains the business.

Sometimes the agency in question retains the right to defend the account. It could be that the agency was challenged on the basis that it couldn't pursue a different creative style, and the brand wanted to see what it could do with more competition.

Some agencies successfully defend their rights to accounts. Sometimes, agencies lose. Hey, that's why we play the game, right?

The most interesting strategy is when the agency chooses to walk away from a review. (Note: This is different than the brand issuing a review and not inviting the current agency to participate.)

The agency is offered a chance to defend, and the agency declines. What's the point? Perhaps the agency feels that a relationship cannot be repaired after a review. Perhaps the agency is insulted that the review has to be done instead of privately talking it through.

We remember reading the words of an agency executive who walked away. He basically said that if the brand didn't like the work, then the agency would simply work with one who did.

We see the reasoning behind refusing to defend, but we wonder: Is that the right message to send? Or does accepting the chance to defend make your agency look desperate?

We doubt that there is a right answer, but we can imagine that there are several schools of thought out there.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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