We asked Phillip Lockwood-Holmes to tell us whether he thinks the traditional retainer model is now firmly in the past for agencies and brands alike. Read on to find out what he had to say...


I've been asked a couple of times recently about the future of agency retainers... an interesting question.

Having never worked at a traditional advertising agency - and not being quite old enough to have been part of the 80s heyday - few of my accounts have involved retainers. When they have, the retainers have always worked pretty well. Though just as every relationship is different, the nature of each retainer has been different, too.


But is there a future for the retainer?


I think the answer is interlinked with what I see as the role of a modern agency = bringing outside/fresh thinking to client's challenges by involving super creative multidisciplinary folk who enjoy working cross-sector, on a multitude of projects. I believe that the best results come from a collaborative team built of individuals from within the client, agencies and users/partners. 

This approach can be for one-off projects, but it works best over the long term. A brand isn't built by a big campaign once a year, it's grown 24/7 through action and interaction, content and engagement. And so you need a team equipped to create new ideas, content and lead conversations 24/7.

Some clients can build a team internally to deliver that, but the reality is that most brands aren't able to build the range of skills internally that you'd typically find all under the one roof in an agency, like Whitespace. There are many ways to make the commercials work around this kind of support, but a retainer that provides ongoing access to such a resource makes a lot of sense.

It might be going against the trend, but the support you need from an agency in 2018 is probably more suited to a retainer than it was in 1988.


Do you agree with Phillip? Or, maybe you think he's got it all wrong? Either way, let us know what you think on LinkedIn.


Image source: Andy Starnes/Pittsburgh Press, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette archives