Much has been written over the past several years about the “death of the traditional Agency of Record (AOR).” Too big, too slow, too far behind the technology curve, blah blah.
Evidence, not quite fully matched up vis-à-vis cause and effect, typically presented in the form of several long-time AOR relationships ended by clients (or agencies, in some cases). Examples such as Harley-Davidson and Carmichael Lynch splitting up after 30+ years, MetLife and Y&R after 80+ years, and ExxonMobil dropping McCann after 100 years.
The savior to this relationship misery was supposed to be the “digital agencies of the future.” They would take over AOR status, and lead those sloth-like Mad Men to the future. We wrote about one of the first two years ago - Ameriprise’s selection of R/GA as its AOR.
Different year, same shit. In 2011, R/GA cadged Saatchi’s playbook circa 2008, swapping out the late Dennis Hopper with Tommy Lee Jones. Agency of Replication.
Just last month, Ad Age ran a short piece, announcing that Chili’s had dumped Digitas from its “digital AOR” perch of just one year.
“While the brand will continue to look at elements to align with its growing digital and mobile strategies, Chili's is not looking to conduct a review for another digital AOR."
We think this will become a trend. According to the Ad Age article, here is what Digitas was signed up to do for Chili’s: “digital-media planning and buying, customer-relationship marketing, social media, mobile, display, search marketing, website design, and analytics and measurement.”
F&ck me, do they clean windows too?
As much a mockery as it is for old-school (read: non-digital) agencies to pretend they can do all this dirty digital work, it’s only slightly less funny that a “digital shop” that began as a website designer back in 2002 believes it can also, for example, manage SEM in an affordable way for its clients, and vice versa. Now add analytics, mobile, games, social media “listening,” on and on.
These parts are not integrated, perhaps not integrate-able, and certainly not scalable. Six months into a digital AOR relationship, clients are agog and aghast by the late work, the lack of cohesive strategy, and the cost overruns.
If there could be a worse part to this story, it is the side effect that takes the agency-client relationship that never quite made it to “great,” and pulls it back toward the “poor” end of the spectrum.