Another giant in the ad world is closing its doors.

And of course, both brands and agencies are jumping to read the tea leaves regarding what went wrong, what could have been done differently, and what this says about the state of the industry.

While Barton F. Graf shuttering after 9 years is sure to send shockwaves throughout the marketing world, it hardly means the beginning of the end for independent agencies.

Rather, it represents a shift in the space that has been forecast for years, including by yours truly.

This shift is a crucial lesson for marketers embarking on a search for their next shop.

The age of huge AORs is giving way to the rise of nimble agencies that are able to apply creative thinking to project work.

This agility is becoming among the most important features in a potential marketing partner, and needs to be near the top of your list when searching for agencies.

The bigger agency isn’t always the better agency, and we continue to see small- to medium-size shops thrive in this environment.

While an agency partner needs to fit the criteria you’ve set forth, it also needs understand the landscape and define an identity it can nail in a project scenario, rather than trying to be everything at once.

This isn’t to say that AORs are extinct (or anything close to it), but agencies that rely solely on those relationships may be facing rocky waters ahead.

Graf likely won’t be the last large agency to fall, each of these announcements creates an opportunity for these smaller agencies to fill a newly-created space for creativity and proactive thinking.

These are the agencies you want, and the ones that will challenge and push your agency roster—not to mention your brand—to new heights.

At the end of the day, you want an agency that knows exactly what it is and can give you the creativity you need, whether that’s a multi-faceted relationship or a small, focused project.

Agencies that rely on the traditional AOR model are finding themselves fighting an uphill battle as more agile competitors ride the new wave of project work.

Are your agencies positioned for this shift in the landscape? If not, give us a call (513-559-3101) or drop us a line ( and we’ll help you to find an agency with the creativity, agility, and expertise to usher you into the new agency landscape.