When the CMO of McDonald’s, Deborah Wahl, announced DDB as its new agency, she was excited: “This agency of the future really has digital and data at heart,” she said in an interview in August. That’s great. But the agency of the future may also be dirt poor: McDonald’s required DDB sign a zero-margin contract for the $1 billion account.

The McDonald’s-DDB deal the first domino to fall that will result in more agreements of the sort, part of a new agency-client relationship that gives smaller, unknown agencies the opportunity to win new clients while simultaneously giving those clients, always looking for a way to cut costs and get more out of their agencies, more power. The year ahead will see agencies complain — and then claw each other’s eyes out to cut sweetheart deals to land marquee clients.

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