Agency of Record? These Days, It’s More Like Agency of MP3

On MediaPost yesterday, Catalyst S+F President and regular blogger Cory Treffiletti posted an interesting piece bemoaning the demise of the AOR title. His opening point really hit home; while much has been made about how CMO tenure hovers just below twenty-four months, that’s quietly become the standard for agency-client relationships as well.  Given my position, it’s probably not surprising that I find this whole situation terribly sad.

Worse, it’s probably our fault.

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79Oh sure, it’s easy to whine and blame clients but I have always found clients remarkably helpful in our line of work. If nothing else, they let us do silly things on their behalf.  No, the real culprit must be that at some point, we agencies stopped selling our value.  Perhaps we considered it self-evident, maybe everyone just got too busy; whatever the reason, the end result was we stopped emphasizing our value, stopped taking the time to show the tangible benefits of our labors.

At the same time, the world got busy. Clients and agencies alike became caught up in the now, with nary a moment to stop and think amidst the non-stop demand to react, react, react. Whether you are a CMO or a partner agency, it takes time to truly know a company and their culture and we stopped investing that time.

And so, inevitably, we commoditized ourselves. Understandably, clients began to look at our product like any other staple–something to be sought out on the open market with the money going to the lowest-priced vendor.

But we can get it back. We must.  It starts with copyrighting our ideas, protecting the one tangible asset we create. It then improves as we take the time to quantify our contributions, to the point where everyone on the team both knows and takes pride in the value we bring to brands. And it gels when we communicate that value compellingly and concisely to clients.

These days, it’s not enough to sell our brands; we gotta sell ourselves as well. If we do, we stand a far better chance of sticking around until the next CMO shows up.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


One thought on “Agency of Record? These Days, It’s More Like Agency of MP3

  1. Matt Dollinger says:

    Dennis –

    Great post – a friend of yours Don Shea actually works for our real estate company here in Chicago. He brought up your post’s importance to us in the real estate industry. Below is the response I wrote to Don (edited) that I thought was spot on regardless of your industry.

    “I think it’s more than “just” the value. Steve Harney from http://www.keepingcurrentmatters had a great slide in last month’s deck that said simply “FAB is DEAD”

    FAB = Features, Advantages, Benefits

    We have sold on Features for way too long – and features can be commoditized. Essentially “communicating the value is fine – but you have to SHOW it”

    “I hear not what you say – I see what you do”

    Explaining the value from a benefits perspective is what it’s all about. If you can show/tell them what you are going to do and WHY it is of a benefit to them…. That’s where you differentiate yourself from the pack.

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