The brand and agency relationship is facing a turbulent time. Each side has acted rashly, and it is necessary to fix the problem before it gets any worse. We see news of brands waiting up to 120 days before releasing payments to agencies. We see agencies not delivering what they agreed they would. And agencies, because of the whole payment issue, are rallying together to encourage "no-spec" work, meaning that they should get paid for the work they do while in the pitching process.
Then the brands countered, shrinking agency rosters and stripping the AOR status from many deserving (and probably undeserving) shops.
Not the best move.
Why? Because you are dealing with a group of creatives; people who are usually not motivated with monetary awards or the thrill of jumping from project to project.
Many of them like to be recognized for their work. In the agency world, the way to be recognized is by receiving the AOR label. It provides a sense of accomplishment that a project-by-project contract doesn't deliver. If brands ultimately decide to eliminate AOR status, where is the motivation — on the agency's part — to be daring, unconventional, and creative? Now they will simply do what needs to be done in order to keep receiving projects. The work may come in, but, if studies are right, the work won't be in as quickly and won't be as risky or creative.
We could be wrong. We hope we're wrong.
Because if we're right, and this project-by-project work continues, we are going to see this once-fantastic relationship continue to strain.
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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