Brands embrace the social media AOR

As social media encompasses a larger share of brands’ ad spending budgets, marketers are seeking social media AORs instead of a roster of firms for project work. Working with one agency, instead of many, eases the burden on brands by streamlining the social marketing process, industry experts said.?

Asked if marketers need a social media AOR, Jon Bond, CEO of New York-based social agency Big Fuel, which was acquired by Publicis Groupe last month, replied, naturally, “Yes, and you need it more than any other kind of AOR, because social media is an octopus and invades everything and creates a huge mess for companies.”?

Bond explained that many of the responsibilities of a social media AOR don’t even involve social media, per se. He added that the social world is littered with “a lot of small, cute little agencies that think it’s all just about tweeting — it’s not.” ?

“It’s about relationships, marketing, how to integrate [the agency’s relat-ionship with other firms], legal and compliance issues and distribution,” he said. “The level of complexity is so extreme that it’s like brain surgery.”?

Michael Knott, SVP and media ?director at Draftfcb San Francisco, said brands’ rush to hire agencies as social AOR suggests that “more clients see the need for social programs to be integrated into the overall marketing mix.” “We focus less on the social platforms themselves and work more on the strategic and operational approach that is required to create an ongoing presence for our brands,” he said. ?

Bond said Big Fuel has already surpassed budget for the year and will soon have to shut down new business because the manpower of his 170-person shop is maxed out. The firm is the social lead agency for General Motors and T-Mobile USA, while it conducts project work for Neutrogena Corp.?

Other marketers have similarly tap-ped shops to manage social more formally. Pizza Hut named The Martin Agency its digital and social agency in June, two weeks after Weight Watchers International gave its social business to McCann New York. ?

While some recently hired social AORs had previous client relationships, many did not before winning AOR accounts. Wunderman’s Zaaz interactive agency had only managed project work for about one-quarter of the brands it works with as AOR, said partner and CEO Shane Atchison. ?

Likewise, skincare line StriVectin approached Havas shop Cake about becoming its social AOR this spring even though the companies had never worked together, said Greg James, managing partner at Cake. He added social AOR accounts require a much broader approach. ?

“It’s one thing to create a stunt, but it’s a different skill to understand and manage day-to-day the many touch points a brand might have across the social media space,” he said.

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