Media meteors

This year’s Marketing Week Agency Reputations Survey saw media agencies build on their impressive 2002 showing.

Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO is back on top. The UK’s top-billing advertising agency is once again perceived by marketers as having the foremost reputation among UK marketing services providers. It returns to the number one position in Marketing Week‘s annual Agency Reputations Survey after it was knocked off the top spot last year by McCann-Erickson.

The 15th survey of how marketers from top companies view agencies – carried out by TNS Interactive – shows AMV benefiting from enhanced perceptions of its account managers and its attentiveness and adaptability to clients. The standing of its senior management and reputation for financial stability have also improved. This suggests clients have been persuaded that the management succession of recent years (the old guard of founders David Abbott, Peter Mead and Adrian Vickers being replaced by younger directors such as chief executive Cilla Snowball) has been successfully executed.

Last year’s most highly reputed agency, McCann-Erickson, has been punished for its continuous management reshuffling – namely the June 2003 departure of UK and Europe boss Ben Langdon (MW June 26, 2003) – and the US financial regulatory investigation into its accounting practices (MW October 30, 2003). It has fallen to third place in the table. The new team in charge – chief executive Rupert Howell and executive creative director Robert Campbell, a founder of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R – have to demonstrate to marketers that this super tanker is well piloted. It is still famed for its coverage of markets outside the UK and has improved its reputation for marketing strategy and analysis.

The survey is a snapshot of how marketers regard the nation’s advertising, direct marketing and media buying and planning agencies, measuring the views of executives across a range of criteria. Some 150 marketers from 450 of the highest-spending marketing companies were questioned between the end of January and February 18 this year, and their responses signal developing trends in advertising.

Media killed the TV star

Media agencies have had one of their best years since the survey began in 1989, reflecting the increasing role media planning and placement is playing in building brands and the relatively diminishing status of the creative, 30-second television ad.

It is said that ad agencies do a poor job of promoting their own reputations, mistakenly thinking that marketers want little more than clever creative work. In reality, they expect creativity, but also want effectiveness and value for money. No wonder it so often appears that there is a dialogue of the deaf between advertising agencies and their clients. Media agencies are exploiting this dissonance to promote their own path to effective media activity.

No media agency has ever been voted number one overall, but this year MediaCom, under chief executive Stephen Allan, has come close, taking the number two slot after finishing joint ninth last year and equal 11th the year before that. This may reflect the fact that it has overtaken Carat to become the biggest media agency in the UK with billings of &£611m. Starcom out-bills MediaCom, but its dual-brand strategy – having Starcom Mediavest and Starcom Motive – divides the gross figure. This has resulted in neither of the divisions making much of an impact on the overall table, though the two come equal seventh for media planning, buying and placement.

MediaCom also topped two important criteria – value for money, where it was equal first last year, up from joint tenth the year before, and media planning buying and placement, where it outstrips Carat and Zenith Optimedia by some way.

Other leading media outfits have slipped – Carat has fallen from third overall last year to eighth and Zenith Optimedia has edged down to ninth from seventh. But media agencies’ reputations among marketers are improving. MindShare has moved up to equal 11th and Manning Gottlieb OMD has achieved joint 18th position.

BEST AGENCY OVER ALL CRITERIA (TOP30)

Rank 03 Rank 02 Rank 01 Agency Actual no As % of max* 1 2 1 Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO 84 10 2 =9 =11 MediaCom 78 9 3 1 4 McCann-Erickson 77 9 4 4 3 J Walter Thompson 63 8 5 5 5 TBWA/London 56 7 6 =9 16 Saatchi & Saatchi 52 6 7 6 8 Ogilvy & Mather 51 6 8 3 10 Carat 42 5 9 7* 9 Zenith Optimedia 37 4 10 =24 =18 WCRS 34 4 =11 16 22 MindShare 32 4 =11 11 25 Mother 32 4 13 – =17 HHCL/Red Cell 29 4 =14 =21 24 Grey London 28 3 =14 – – WWAV Rapp Collins 28 3 16 14 6 Bartle Boge Hegarty 27 3 17 – – Clemmow Hornby Inge 26 3 =18 – – Manning Gottlieb OMD 25 3 =18 13 14 Publicis 25 3 =20 8 2 DDB London (BMP DDB) 22 3 =20 – – Leo Burnett 22 3 =20 20 13 M&C Saatchi 22 3 23 17 20 BDH/TBWA 20 2 24 – – Citigate Albert Frank 18 2 =25 – – Euro RSCG Partners 17 2 =25 23 15 OMD UK 17 2 27 – – Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest 15 2 =28 – – Soul 14 2 =28 – – Zed Media 14 2 30 – – Story 13 2

Source: Marketing Week Survey

*Out of 827 votes. 151 respondents x 9 categories = 1,359 possible votes. The total number of abstentions in each criterion was 532, giving a total of 827 votes for best agency

IMPORTANCE OF NINE CRITERIA

Rank 03 Rank 02 Rank 01 Criteria Importance rating* Av. Rating out of ten 1 2 1 Creativity 66 8.81 2 1 2 Value for money in results achieved 60 8.83 3 4 3 Ability to act in clients’ longer-term best interests based on understanding their business and their markets 56 8.61 4 3 4 Quality of account managers 46 8.4 5 5 5 Attentiveness and adaptability to client companies 38 8.05 6 6 7 Media planning, buying and placement 37 7.17 7 8 6 Marketing strategy and analysis 35 7.77 8 7 8 Financial stability and strong agency management 25 7.65 9 9 9 Coverage of markets outside the UK 4 3.51

Source: Marketing Week Survey

*Criteria are ranked by the percentage of respondents rating them as nine or ten on a ten-point scale of importance

TOP TEN FOR CREATIVITY

Rank 03 Rank 02 Rank 01 Agency % Naming* agency 1 1 5 Mother 16.3 2 2 7 TBWA/London 13.5 3 =4 1 Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO 12.5 4 =6 4 Bartle Bogle Hegarty 8.7 5 – – WCRS 7.7 =6 – – Clemmow Hornby Inge 6.7 =6 3 =9 McCann-Erickson 6.7 =8 – – BDH/TBWA 5.8 =8 =9 6 HHCL/Red Cell 5.8 =8 – – J Walter Thompson 5.8 =8 – – Ogilvy & Mather 5.8 =8 =6 – Saatchi & Saatchi 5.8

Source: Marketing Week Survey

*Base for percentage = 104 respondents who named up to three agencies each

TOP TEN FOR ABILITY TO ACT IN CLIENTS’ LONGER TERM INTERESTS BASED ON UNDERSTANDING THEIR BUSINESS AND THEIR MARKETS

Rank 03 Rank 02 Rank 01 Agency % Naming* agency 1 1 1 Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO 11.5 2 =8 3 J Walter Thompson 9.6 =3 2 4 McCann-Erickson 8.7 =3 = – MediaCom 8.7 =3 =3 =6 Ogilvy & Mather 8.7 =6 =8 – TBWA/London 5.8 =6 – – WCRS 5.8 =6 – – WWAV Rapp Collins 5.8 =9 – – Leo Burnett 4.8 =9 =5 =10 Saatchi & Saatchi 4.8

Source: Marketing Week Survey

*Base for percentage = 104 respondents who named up to three agencies each

TOP TEN FOR MEDIA PLANNING, BUYING AND PLACEMENT

Rank 03 Rank 02 Rank 01 Agency % Naming* agency 1 3 =4 MediaCom 22.3 2 1 2 Carat 17 3 2 1 Zenith Optimedia 10.6 4 =4 6 MindShare 9.6 =5 8 11 Manning Gottlieb OMG 7.4 =5 7 8 PHD Media 7.4 =7 – 7 Starcom MediaVest 6.4 =7 =4 =4 Starcom Motive 6.4 =9 – – McCann-Erickson 5.3 =9 – – Media Planning Group 5.3 =9 =4 3 OMD UK 5.3 =9 – – Universal McCann 5.3

Source: Marketing Week Survey

Base for percentage = 94 respondents who named up to three agencies each

WCRS running smoothly

One of the most impressive leaps up the table this year has been made by WCRS, which enters the top ten from equal 24th position last year. Perhaps the agency is gaining in reputation from a strong performance the year before last – 2003 was not good in terms of new business for the agency since it lost the &£24m Camelot account. But its creative reputation has been boosted – it achieved fifth place in creativity, perhaps aided by the popular campaign for 118 118 directory enquiries featuring the moustachioed runners.

Another high-flier is Grey London, which may go down as the agency turnaround of the decade under chief executive Garry Lace. It is earning a reputation for offering value for money and having strong management, while its global coverage is also being recognised.

HHCL and Red Cell seem to have benefited from their merger, at least in terms of reputation. Together they have jumped to 13th position from outside the top 30 last year. And Leo Burnett has made something of a recovery, just squeezing into the top 20.

But while some have taken giant steps up the league table, others have taken equally huge strides downwards. DDB London (formerly known as BMP DDB) has crashed out of the top ten to equal 20th. It has been a rapid rout – two years ago it came second overall and won the top creative spot in 2000. And Publicis has fallen to equal 18th, despite its popular Renault work with Thierry Henry. But the greatest disappearance from the top 30 has been Lowe, which finished 12th last year and is now nowhere to be seen.

The importance marketers attach to each of the nine criteria on which the overall figures are based is itself significant. Last year, for example, “value for money” was viewed as the most important criterion, reflecting the tough economic circumstances that were afflicting the marketing industry. But in a sign that there is a new optimism aboard, “creativity” is once more viewed as the crucial attribute for agencies.

Agency reputations are built up over years, and in Marketing Week‘s survey, marketers appear not to be swayed in their views by a few bad headlines. These can have a drip-drip effect on agency brands, but marketers take a considered view. The top of the table is dominated by the biggest and longest-established agencies, irrespective of how they have performed in the medium term. Ogilvy & Mather continues to hover around the middle of the top ten, even though it has had an uneventful year. J Walter Thompson dominated the number one slot for many years through the Nineties. This mystified many observers, who put its success down to a reworking of a famous axiom – “no marketer ever got fired for hiring JWT”.

TOP TEN FOR VALUE FOR MONEY

Rank 03 Rank 02 Rank 01 Agency % Naming* agency 1 =1 =10 MediaCom 10.5 2 =1 2 McCann Erickson 9.3 3 5 =6 TBWA/London 7 4 =6 1 Abbott Mead Vickers 5.8 =5 – – MindShare 4.7 =5 =6 5 Xenith Optimedia 4.7 =7 =6 – BDH/TBWA 3.5 =7 =6 =3 DDB London (BMP DDB) 3.5 =7 – – Grey London 3.5 =7 – =10 HHCL/Red Cell 3.5 =7 – =3 J Walter Thompson 3.5 =7 =6 =10 Publicis 3.5 =7 – – Saatchi & Saatchi 3.5

Source: Marketing Week Survey

Base for percentage = 86 respondents who named up to three agencies each

TOP TEN FOR QUALITY OF ACCOUNT MANAGERS

Rank 03 Rank 02 Rank 01 Agency % Naming* agency 1 5 1 Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO 11.8 2 – – MediaCom 9.8 3 =6 =4 TBWA/London 8.8 4 =10 – Saatchi & Saatchi 7.8 5 =1 =4 McCann-Erickson 6.9 =6 – – Celmmow Hornby Inge 5.9 =6 =1 2 J Walter Thompson 5.9 8 – – Bartle Bogle Hegarty 4.9 =9 – – Citigate Albert Frank 3.9 =9 =10 =9 M&C Caatchi 3.9 =9 – – MindShare 3.9 =9 – – WCRS 3.9 =9 – – WWAV Rapp Collins 3.9

Source: Marketing Week Survey

Base for percentage = 102 respondents who named up to three agencies each

TOP TEN FOR MARKETING STRATEGY AND ANALYSIS

Rank 03 Rank 02 Rank 01 Agency % Naming* agency 1 4 4 McCann-Erickson 11.2 =2 =1 1 Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO 9 =2 =1 3 J Walter Thompson 9 =4 – – MediaCom 6.7 =4 7 =11 Ogilvy & Mather 6.7 =4 =5 5 TBWA/London 6.7 =4 – – WWAV Rapp Collins 6.7 =8 – – HHCL/Red Cell 5.6 =8 – – Leo Burnett 5.6 =8 – =9 Saatchi & Saatchi 5.6 =8 =9 – WCRS 5.6 =8 =9 – Zenith Optimedia 5.6

Source: Marketing Week Survey

Base for percentage = 89 respondents who named up to three agencies each

Getting a reputation

JWT’s downward drift this decade to number four underlines the gradual nature of declining reputations. But the agency has gained strongly from the demise of Bates, which was acquired by WPP. JWT picked up former Bates accounts such as B&Q, Pfizer and some HSBC business. It continues to do well on a number of criteria, coming second or above in five.

The survey suggests that marketers do not base their regard for agencies on simply looking at blockbusting wins or losses. TBWA/London scored a massive coup in securing the &£24m Abbey account (without a formal pitch), won McCain and was reappointed to 3 (MW April 10, May 14 and August 7, 2003). But the agency has remained at number five overall for three years in a row. Mother, which last year almost entered the top 10 for the first time after a strong 2002, has seen its position remain more or less static despite its massive and unexpected &£40m Boots win. But the agency continues to dominate the all-important category of creativity, an area where there have been a lot of new entrants – BDH/TBWA appears in the top ten for the first time in three years, where it is joined by Ogilvy & Mather and JWT.

Shaken, but not stirred

The management shake-ups at Saatchi & Saatchi in 2003 were no barrier to the agency moving up to sixth place overall from joint ninth last year. Though its creative reputation took a knock – perhaps related to the departure of a number of leading creatives including director Dave Droga to Publicis – it came equal second on attentiveness and adaptability to clients.

Direct marketing agencies have never earned much of a reputation among marketers questioned for the Marketing Week survey, perhaps reflecting their often tactical role in marketing. But this year, WWAV Rapp Collins has entered the top 30 at joint 14th and has done well in categories such as ability to act in clients’ longer-term interests and marketing strategy and analysis.

Clemmow’s foot on the gas

There has also been a strong showing from a group of newcomers to the reputations top 30 – some of which are recent start-ups, others that have been around for a long time and are finally starting to show up on marketers’ radars. Clemmow Hornby Inge, which opened in 2001, has crashed into the top 30 at number 17. Its main showing has been on creativity, where it has taken joint sixth position, and for the quality of its account managers. Winning accounts such as Anchor butter and British Gas may well have helped fuel its fame.

It is unusual for an agency mainly concerned with business and corporate advertising to make it into the top 30, but Citigate Albert Frank has achieved this feat. The agency, which serves mainly financial and corporate clients such as Prudential and JP Morgan, also claims the credit for creating the Scottish Widows branding.

New kids on the block

Other new arrivals in the top 30 include Soul, Zed Media and Story. Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest, never an agency to brashly promote itself, launched in January 2002 and has entered the top 30 at 27. It produces ads for mobile phone brand O2 and has won accounts such as Glenfiddich, Trebor Mints, FedEx, Appletiser and Wedgewood in 2003.

Some question how knowledgeable marketers are about agencies, given they tend only to think about them when something goes wrong and they need to hire a new one. But undoubtedly they carry about impressions of agencies in their minds and these can affect how pitch lists are drawn up. As with all brands, reputation is hard to pin down and is rarely based on rational beliefs. Agencies have yet to find a way of intentionally altering perceptions of their own reputations. Their heritage, their people and their performance speak for themselves.

TOP TEN FOR COVERAGE OF MAJOR MARKETS OUTSIDE THE UK

Rank 03 Rank 02 Rank 01 Agency % Naming* agency 1 1 2 McCann-Erickson 23 =2 2 1 J Walter Thompson 14.8 =2 4 6 Ogilvy & Mather 14.8 =4 3 =3 Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO 13.1 =4 5 =3 Saatchi & Saatchi 13.1 =6 =7 =8 Carat 9.8 =6 =9 – Grey London 9.8 =6 – =8 Publicis 9.8 =9 – 7 TBWA/London 6.6 =9 – – WPP Group 6.6

Source: Marketing Week Survey

Base for percentage = 61 respondents who named up to three agencies each

TOP TEN FOR FINANCIAL STABILITY AND STRONG AGENCY MANAGEMENT

Rank 03 Rank 02 Rank 01 Agency % Naming* agency =1 3 2 Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO 13.8 =1 1 1 J Walter Thompson 13.8 3 2 3 McCann-Erickson 12.8 4 5 5 Ogilvy & Mather 10.6 5 =10 – MediaCom 9.6 6 7 – Saatchi & Saatchi 6.4 =7 4 – Carat 5.3 =7 6 =9 TBWA/London 5.3 =7 – – WCRS 5.3 =10 =10 =7 Bartle Bogarty Hegarty 4.3 =10 – – Gery London 4.3 =10 =8 – Publicis 4.3 =10 – – WPP Group 4.3

Source: Marketing Week Survey

Base for percentage = 94 respondents who named up to three agencies each

TOP TEN FOR ATTENTIVENESS AND ADAPTABILITY TO CLIENTS

Rank 03 Rank 02 Rank 01 Agency % Naming* agency 1 2 1 Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO 9.7 =2 =3 7 J Walter Thompson 8.6 =2 =9 9 MediaCom 8.6 =2 =6 – Saatchi & Saatchi 8.6 =5 – – Manning Gottlieb OMD 5.4 =5 1 3 McCann-Erickson 5.4 =7 – – Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper Partners 4.3 =7 – – Mother 4.3 =7 =3 =4 TBWA/London 4.3 =10 5 – Carat 3.2 =10 – – Citigate Albert Frank 3.2 =10 – =10 HHCL/Red Cell 3.2 =10 – – Leo Burnett 3.2 =10 – – MindShare 3.2 =10 =6 =10 Ogilvy & Mather 3.2 =10 =9 =4 Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R 3.2 =10 =9 =4 WCRS 3.2 =10 – – WWAV Rapp Collins 3.2 =10 – – Zenith Optimedia 3.2

Source: Marketing Week Survey

Base for percentage = 93 respondents who named up to three agencies each

Methodology

This year’s Marketing Week survey of agency reputations was carried out by TNS Interactive using a methodology that has remained constant since the survey’s inception in 1989. The researchers conducted telephone interviews of 151 UK marketing directors or senior executives responsible for the marketing function, selected randomly from the 450 organisations that spent most on advertising in 2003. The fieldwork was carried out between January 26 and February 18, 2004. TNS Interactive is the specialist online telephone research arm of TNS. For further information, contact Caroline Gaskin, associate director, on 0207 868 6593.

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