Skip to main content


Breaking Out of the Transaction Zone

July 17, 2017

Even before the glory days portrayed by the characters in Mad Men, advertisers used agencies for access to the best content, collateral, and media plans. Yet, what they are truly looking for is the strategy behind the curtain that brings all these disparate devices together into a cohesive marketing approach.

We are currently in an era where businesses have increased access to the technology and tools that allow them to create and manage media internally. However, DIY creative and media strategies often generate more of a mess than an impact.

In what seems like an attempt to figure out the secret sauce in a scalable format, advertisers overlook the fact that the sauce is only as good as the medley of ingredients it is composed of. Using a rotating mix of agency partners on a project-by-project basis will, at best, produce a cronut covered in Sriracha. Individually, the ingredients and techniques are tasty (in other words, “effective”), but when quickly tossed together - it just doesn’t work.

The one thing that will seemingly never change when it comes to advertiser expectations is that the high shared interest, marketing strategies, and insights that are usually developed over the course of a long-standing agency partnership have to be at the forefront of any ideation, implementation, or optimization decision.

Fortunately, there are influential advertisers who do see the value of inclusive partnerships. For example, Axl Schwan, CMO of Burger King at Cannes 2017 reminds us that "agencies are not vending machines,” and he could not be more correct.

“The client-supplier relationship is very transactional and doesn’t deliver, usually, great creative work. If you want to be a good client, don’t be a client, be a partner…. You cannot throw in money and hope the creative work comes out. It doesn’t work like this..."

How did we get here?

We live in a fragmented media landscape with high expectations and limited budgets, so pulling in a mix of agencies that specialize in specific channels and media is a natural reaction. However, this arrangement either ends up like the well-choreographed movements of a team of chefs in a 5-star restaurant, or more often it may resemble the food fight scene from the movie Animal House.  For certain, staying in your lane and doing what you do best makes sense, but you need to be able to have strategic alignment with your partners to make any marketing strategy a cohesive, well-executed plan. 

What’s the solution?

At MBuy we have found that taking a realistic approach to our strengths and weaknesses, and strategically partnering with other agencies, has been a great way to cover our bases. By developing long-term relationships that consistently result in campaign successes, we and our agency partners deliver a unified voice so the client doesn’t view their agency relationships as just as fragmented as the media channels they employ. Thus, our mutual clients see the value of dedicated AORs versus ad hoc project partners. 

Additionally, true agency partnerships lend themselves to creating more revenue from referrals. When we encounter new business opportunities which fall outside our purview, we happily recommend those partners who we know do great work and play nice in the sandbox.  And we’ve experienced the same in return.

What we’ve found is that the coveted AOR designation which allows agencies to immerse themselves in their clients’ business needs is much more about making friends than it is about overpowering your competitors.