Redefining AOR: From Agency Of Record To Agency Of Reality

Rumors surrounding the death of the agency of record (AOR) model are greatly exaggerated.

When the AOR model was defined, digital marketing wasn’t even a glimmer in its eye. To meet the needs of social media alone, this term must undergo a transformation.

Let me introduce you to the redefined AOR: agency of reality.

To meet the need’s of today’s on-demand marketplace, small, quick-thinking and digitally savvy companies will be the ones to not only survive, but thrive.

In a column for Adweek, Nick Phelps wrote: “Whereas marketers used to hire agencies to develop 30-second spots for TV and print planned months in advance, now they’re managing customized marketing across diverse platforms and devices to targeted audiences, all in real time, with need for integration across all touch points.”

This is the new normal. On-demand marketing isn’t going away. In fact, it will only increase over time. Does this scare agencies? Of course, but change isn’t always a bad thing, which is why the AOR definition and duties must become more fluid and client/partner centric to survive.



In a piece for The Drum, Marc Nohr noted that “today’s industry is challenged by a trend going the other way: unbundling. It’s about stripping what are perceived as bloated agency services down to create an ‘Uber for advertising’ which competes on price, flexibility and speed.”

Brands don’t sleep. Things don’t stop. Leaner agencies have the capability to be available in real-time and, in effect, “always on.” Does this mean the agency and brand expect you to be on call 24/7, 365? No. But an agency that houses all services under one roof has the scalability, flexibility and nimbleness to grow and shrink as necessary at the turn on a dime.

Digital, standalone doesn’t work anymore. Having digital, social, experiential, technology, data mining, analysis, retail and e-commerce activation, etc. together allows agencies to offer high quality work on short notice. You, the client, only pay for what they need and what’s necessary.

This saves clients money and also communicates to them that the agency is available to scale up at a moment’s notice if a project requires it. When completed, it’s back to the agency’s core group of people.

Huge, fixed contracts will continue to become a thing of the past and value beyond fee becomes the relationship umbilical cord of the future.

If the needs of clients are changing, and we know they are, why should we expect agencies to remain the same?

Being named a brand’s AOR was considered a big deal. It still is. Having all campaign elements handled under one roof showed a sign of trust, respect and comfort in this singular agency to aptly perform required tasks at hand.

The same way a brand’s needs pivoted is how an agency — and the AOR definition — must be viewed. It’s evolving over time; it’s a drastic change that adapting to won’t take place overnight. Step back. Think of a brand holistically.

We’re living in the age of agency of reality. Is your agency Gumby or the Tin Man?

1 comment about "Redefining AOR: From Agency Of Record To Agency Of Reality".
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  1. Bart Foreman from Infinity Direct, August 27, 2019 at 1:15 p.m.

    I might want to disagree with the statement, "But an agency that houses all services under one roof has the scalability, flexibility and nimbleness to grow and shrink as necessary at the turn on a dime." The new model that is evolving is the creation of diverse agency teams, directed by one prime agency that can marshall the needed resources quickly and efficiently. These agencies work together to create the strategy and then ebb and flow in its execution. This can be much more efficient for the client.

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