In the New Normal Agency Life is a Game of Jump Ball


I really don’t know much about Basketball having grown up in Canada. I do know quite a bit about Hockey though. I do know that Basketball was invented by a Canadian named James Naismith. Wikipedia said he was a Canadian American, although I don’t think you can get such a passport that would pass with TSA or INS.

I like talking to agency principals. I have written about that in the many times in the past.

I was having some wine with an agency principal from a global agency the other day. Part of a major agency holding company.  He makes more money in a year than I make in 3 years. He hadn’t had a raise in three years. It is all about the bonus baby, if you make the number. That number was created for NYSE but not for the New Normal.

They were lamenting how much the agency business has changed and that even the larger clients are dropping AOR relationships for project work. This reminded me of when I saw the CEO of Razorfish speaking at a New Business Conference a couple of years ago. He said that 50% of his agency’s work was project based.

I remember thinking, how do you manage that when you have to make payroll for 3,000 people?

My agency friend told me that even in his rarified world many clients prefer to have a stable of 2-3 “go to” agencies that they go to and pitch the projects that come up instead of having an AOR relationship.  My friend then said “It’s a Jump Ball World.”

I was thinking how much pressure that must put on large agencies these days. I worked for a few large agencies like JWT and DDB. Since they are publicly traded they need to make their number, each and every year. Those AOR relationships formed the foundation of meeting your goals and more importantly keeping your job.

Today the heat is on even more.

I was thinking about the implications of today’s Jump Ball agency life when you are always competing for New Business.

What does it mean for search consultants? I know that I have done a number of reviews for great brands from Toyo Tires to Jenny Craig, when clients had a need for a change.

With the move to digital I don’t think that clients are going to hire a review consultant to hire a search consultant to conduct a review for a project or an App. They may reach out to me for my recommendations on developers.

What does it mean for agencies? I think it depends on their size. I think that smaller agencies are used to project based business but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to land big fish.

Digital agencies also are used to project work. The strain on them is how will they pay the salaries of ten highly paid developers when the responsive site game is over?

So, what do you do to approach New Business in a Jump Ball game? I only know Hockey.

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Watch: How to Conduct an Agency Review.

Read: Are Marketers Still Stewarts of the Brand.

What’s Wrong with Client Agency Relationships?


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