Managing a brand without an agency of record, though a possibility, will never reap the same results in consistency, consumer recall and recognition, and overall campaign effectiveness.
Several brands, especially the big ones, maintain agency rosters with a "lead" agency (or an AOR without the official title). Even that is more effective than the project-by-project jigsaw brands are now looking to use because brands now believe that they can manage the brand image and hire "experts" in different subjects in order to plug the gaps the brands have.
It's a less-than-decent idea in theory; even worse in practice.
Whether people want to start believing it or not, advertising is still a relationship business. We saw a quote the other day that said, "People will buy into the person before they buy into the vision." Human behavior en masse rarely sees a seismic shift. If people like to work with people they liked decades ago, chances are highly probable that the way of thought is the same. Steering a small, medium, or large brand to build, execute, and maintain a branding strategy needs a trustworthy and intimate relationship. Those relationships are generally not built with the social media agency, the PR agency, and the email marketing agency.
Complexity does not positively correlate with effectiveness.
Even an article on Forbes by columnist Will Burns doubts the acts of certain large brands. Burns interviewed several thought leaders in AdLand, and the consensus suggests that moving away from an AOR model, though brands may go back to it in the future, isn't the brightest thing to do now.
Naturally, we agree.
We find it incredibly interesting to see that brands think that decentralizing branding strategies will help build a consistent image. The very notion, even with the arguments that it saves on costs or that an AOR "can't be an expert in everything," seems like a silly one.
First, brands think that the AOR needs to be able to do everything expertly. If a brand thinks that, the brand had better be answering every single want and need of their customer, or there will be a rude awakening at the first meeting. If a brand is perfect in every single way, any kind of advertising that brings attention to it would boost its sales, right? A brand with that "problem" cannot be perfect or even "expert" in everything it does. Therefore, demanding an agency that is an expert in every field is facing the old adage of throwing stones while living in a glass house. It is just not a reasonable demand.
Second, brands are forgetting the other simple idiom: "too many chefs in the kitchen." Using multiple agencies without a lead or designated brand partner will cause more headaches than successes. Instead of reading up on that and learning from the mistakes of others, just worry about the bottom line and come to that conclusion yourselves.
Finally, how interesting is it that the main goal for brands is to develop a relationship and build loyalty with its consumers when they blatantly fail to recognize that with their AdLand partners? Something to think about.
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.