Will Serial Projects Be An Agency Killer?
The foundation of the agency business model is based on retainer agreements. Once an agency is selected as an AOR, the client pays a retainer (aka advance) for marketing services. This allows the agency to invest in staffing for research, creative, media planning, etc., to accomplish the job they were chosen to do. Seems like a pretty straightforward arrangement, right? But what would happen if clients didn’t pay a retainer up front, and instead only contracted with agencies as needed without ever making a long-term commitment?
In the media biz that’s called Serial Project Management, and it’s a rising trend in our industry. Instead of selecting a permanent AOR, brands are increasingly contracting with agencies on a project by project basis. What’s even worse, clients are often forcing agencies to pitch against one another to win single projects, which takes away resources from the long-term strategic work which actually needs to get done. Serial Project Management might be great for clients since they don’t have to make a long-term fixed investment in marketing. But it’s not so positive for agencies, who can’t rely on steady work (and revenue) to make infrastructure investments in staffing and other tools to serve their clients
One agency exec framed up Serial Project Management as, “The boyfriend who never commits. We keep going on dates. You come back to my family’s house for Thanksgiving, we’re going on vacation, but never locks it in and says, you’re the one.”
Sounds like a fun relationship. 🙁