Pitch unveils its latest YouGov Agency Reputation Survey this week with marketers ranking agencies across a number of criteria. Read an introduction to the rankings and the views of three top executives on the future agency model here

Sonoo Singh
Finding the right formula

When Molson Coors UK chief executive Mark Hunter addressed the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising not so long ago, he made the following observation: “Agencies need to transform every aspect of the way they work as the old certainties of marketing recede into memory.”

The main point that Hunter was making in his dissection of the ills of modern marketing was that ad agencies have been slow to grasp the fact that the ground has shifted beneath their feet and that they are in danger of falling into a very deep crevice.

Never before have ad agencies been under this state of scrutiny or siege, as billings shrink, new business declines and media fragmentation reduces the ability to reach a mass audience. We’ve all heard this before, but over the next three pages you will instead sense confidence and buoyancy among agencies that are trying to reshape themselves while attempting to prove their value to both marketers and procurement specialists.

And marketers have clearly taken note. The heads of start-up Adam & Eve, Publicis Groupe-owned Leo Burnett and sister agency Saatchi & Saatchi take you through how their respective businesses are attempting to redefine the very nature of advertising itself. These three agencies have been rated top by marketers in the latest Agency Reputation Survey, conducted by YouGov on attributes ranging from creativity, digital ability, value for money and senior management (see the chart below).

The 2010 Agency Reputation Survey is the second in the series of the surveys that was revived last summer. The results of last year’s research were unveiled on Pitch, a new online publication launched this March in an attempt to inform marketers about the activities of adland and to package the information about the industry as a tool for clients navigating their way through different channels of communications.

The Agency Reputation Survey from last year looks markedly different to the one conducted this summer. The methodology was the same, which included online interviews with senior marketers. The fieldwork was carried out between 11 and 28 May, with almost 500 marketers assessing the top 100 agencies.

The table has been divided into a primary league for agencies that have received more than 20 in-depth surveys and a secondary table for those with less than 20. The one slight difference to this year’s survey was the inclusion of “integration” criterion and also a few DM specialists, including Rapp and Proximity.

Last year’s table toppers have failed to reaffirm their positions this year, with Adam & Eve in the top slot, knocking off the big established network agencies. Reputations, of course, change every time an agency wins or loses a pitch, celebrates a great piece of advertising or undergoes a management churn.

The fall in the reputation of most network agencies is noticeable in this year’s survey, with one major exception being the name Saatchi – clearly a testament to the Saatchi brothers, who set out to define the post-war advertising era. (Rival agencies M&C Saatchi and Saatchi & Saatchi reunited last week for the agency’s 40th anniversary). Marketers have also rated down the high performers from last year – including BBH and AMV BBDO. This might be unjust, but this survey is based purely on marketers’ assessment of the agencies.

Another fascinating insight is the clients’ perception of integrated agencies to be far superior to some of the biggest advertising agencies (in billings). For instance, Proximity fares much better than sister agency AMV BBDO.
In the secondary table, independent agency Karmarama tops the reputation table, followed by integrated agency Publicis Dialog.

The detailed results and the analysis of the results are available on Pitch. Also watch out for the Digital YouGov Reputation Survey, which launches at the end of September. The results are intriguing as marketers clearly seem to have reached a tipping point with the digital arena, with pure-play digital agencies no longer owning that space in the eyes of brand owners.

It’s time to acknowledge that there isn’t one perfect recipe to make that perfect agency. And Hunter is right to note that the traditional marketing model is obsolete – a point also made by the three essays on the following pages, which like most agencies pledge a new way of producing creative communications. And that is what marketers like Hunter have been hoping for.

We hope you will continue to join us in this debate on Pitch.

James Murphy
Adam & Eve
Lessons from Lady Gaga

What a great time to be in advertising. Never has the work we do mattered more, and never have we done more exciting and varied work. What makes me say that, apart from the fact that I’m enjoying building a small but growing integrated agency? Well, the average Briton spends 45% of their waking hours using some sort of media content and communications services.

But even that underplays the extent to which we are a media driven society because we’re using our laptops while we’re watching TV, texting while we’re using Facebook and Tweeting while we’re listening to Spotify on our mobiles. We’re squeezing eight hours and 40 minutes of media consumption into the seven hours that represents the 45%. The country is consuming more media and communications than it is sleeping.

And we all work in an industry that creates some of the content that fills these hours, content consumers clearly want. The headroom for growth for us is huge. Look at our industry this way and we have the opportunity to create ever more communications to reach ever more content-hungry and engaged consumers. This is a pretty good category to be working in, isn’t it?

And how do we grow our share of the nation’s screen time? We find a place where no one else is sitting and we plonk ourselves down in it. And that place is about quality. Too much of the content that fills these media-obsessed hours isn’t very good, and consumers are realising this. The popularity of user-generated content has plummeted over the past year or so, with almost 64% of web users saying they now have little interest in it.

Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga

People want quality experiences to fill that time, and brand owners and agencies can and should give it to them. Look at the hugely successful”big ads” of the past few years, including Hovis, T-Mobile and the John Lewis film that Adam & Eve made earlier this year. Consumers couldn’t get enough of the clever, beautifully crafted and emotionally stirring ideas. These weren’t just ads, they were compelling short-form content, and as an industry we have to make more of it because, other than Lady GaGa, no one else really is.

And that’s the thing, we all have to make great quality customer experiences, and then let the customers grab them to fill their waking hours however they wish. These can be lovely films, clever games, challenging competitions, amazing stunts, bold sponsorships, funny Facebook pages, useful apps and whatever’s next around the corner. To do so requires an agency without a fixed talent set, an agency configured more like a Sony PlayStation, with an open back, into which more and more skills can be plugged in.


When we started Adam & Eve we didn’t really know how the landscape would change, and we still don’t. But we do know that we can find leading talent, happy to join together with our team to keep creating quality content for all the different ways consumers choose to squeeze more and more media into their lives.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges of course, not least in the business side of things. Margins in many growth areas are pitiful because they are labour intensive and commercially unproven. This means it’s vital to grow your agency at the pace that clients dictate, not consumers or technology. It also means you must have a mixed offering to balance the risky and new with the familiar and proven. That’s why our industry is only going in one direction – mass mergers to create big and small integrated shops.

It’s also important to remember that technologies only grow when they meet simple human needs. We need to ensure we create the “software” that helps them do this.

But I don’t want to dwell on problems, I want to reflect again on the opportunities that are available to us. We had a workflow meeting today that showed we’re finishing our 13th film of the year and our second set of sponsorship idents, and are still building the 26 online, digital, mobile and stunt-based ideas that go alongside them to create strong brand ideas and fill consumers screen, hours and lives. Busy, brilliant times for us all, big and small, old and new. Enjoy. lgrow your agency at the pace that clients dictate, not consumeRS or technology

Leo Burnett
Soho 3.0 will reinvigorate adland

Adland has become a war zone of battling guilds and tribal jealousies in which clients endure friendly fire, semantic jousting and obscure acts of creative witchcraft when all they really want is a good idea, deployed well.

The business of ideas defines our industry and our success allows us to operate at the core of society and business. Yet when we saw the opportunities of the internet, we proclaimed we were no longer in the business of advertising.

We’ve spun off in every direction. Over-correcting and under-correcting our agency structures and cultures. To some we look lost, to others we look plain stupid. To clients, we look confused and they are suspicious.

In fact, advertising has been so slow to reassemble itself, that clients are imposing their own sense of order on the dysfunction that greets them. And who can blame them?

Fifteen years ago, rosters were about managing talent, and through nobody’s fault but our own they have become an instrument for managing confusion.

Fifteen years ago, the line that separated display advertising from direct marketing had all but disappeared. That line is back, but it is now drawn by clients through budgets and agency relationships denoting not a technical difference, but a tribal one. And whereas 15 years ago, agency brands were clearly imprinted in the work they produced, clients are now taking agencies apart in search of the individual expertise they need.

Our feuding sense of specialism has made agencies less important than the talent locked inside them.

We are going backwards, and the further backwards we go, the more radical and forensic our clients are forced to be in their procurement.

Clients need an agency with a wide-angle lens that can produce a compelling plan of engagement, where scripts, journeys, technologies and ads all play a part. They need an agency that can answer the broadest business problem and be able to manipulate and decipher the right executions.

Fortunately, this is already happening. Agencies are finding their renaissance, but in a way once considered totally unacceptable.
Senior digital agency talent is now crossing over to adland because adland is finally becoming a place where digital ideas and experience couldn’t be more valuable.

In most cases, digital agency skills are built of around 80% production, 20% creative and strategic. This 20% can now join a creative agency whose model is entirely opposite.


So what would be left behind if they did? A renaissance of our production industry – a Soho 3.0 containing developers, designers and platformspecialists able to deliver on any assignment with no fears of confused agency direction. In other words, great craftsmen working alongside enlightened creative agencies. (Not ad agencies or digital ones, but fresh, broad thinking and wide-angle ones.)

Real, sustainable value for our clients and us still resides in knowing that an agency stands on the shoulders of a great heritage in strategic capability and brand leadership.

With less energy consumed defending turf, there’s more available for creating the next innovation. Inevitably there will be winners and losers, and some that defy convention – thank God for them, for counter cultures keep the world spinning. They foster new ideals, establish new protocols and over time become part of the infrastructure. Paradoxically, and rather beautifully, it’s “going mainstream” that establishes the fuel for the next counter culture or the next innovation.

The digital pure-play (with its notable exceptions) can evolve into a world-class centre of digital craft.

Soho 3.0 can happen, and if it does we’d witness some of the most significant industry shifts ever seen, finally returning clarity to our client-agency partnerships, returning talented production to its rightful owners and allowing enhanced, more wide-angled creative agencies to continue to lead the way whatever their produce might be. l Our feuding sense of specialism has made agencies less important than the talent locked inside them

Michael Rebelo
Saatchi & Saatchi
power of creativity remains supreme

The race is on, and every discipline of marketing communication company is competing to create its model for the future. A model that will bridge the digital divide that exists between agency ambition and capabilities, and provide the solution to rewiring media thinking back into the mainframe of the strategic and creative process. A model that will keep agencies progressive, current and indispensable to their clients.

Every creative agency is desperately trying to come to terms with reinventing their offering and proposition. All are striving to be truly seamless and flexible in their understanding of the media proliferation that exists, to harness technology and train this into the muscle memory of their culture and processes.

Media agencies are clearly investing in creative people. Data analysts are becoming as commonplace as media buyers and most pure-play digital agencies are trying to get their expertise heard at the strategically critical time.

Everything is up for grabs in the marketing communication agency world today. The companies that will get there first will be those that focus on talent magnetism and realise that they don’t have to do everything themselves. The winners will be those who embrace a creatively driven model that is unencumbered by politics, legacy and ownership structures, while at the same time keeping the client’s interests at the heart of the discussions and the decisions.

Not since the days before deregulation have media and creative agencies competed for the same people in their quest to fuse media innovation and creative development. Agency reputation today must be even more potent and inspiring to attract the new breed of creative thinkers, technologists, planners and data brains required to solve modern day marketing challenges. Retention is difficult if you don’t have the right culture, structure, clients and scale.

Being truly flexible is certainly the spirit of the future. The one-stop agency model is becoming extinct, according to the IPA’s 2010 Working with Agencies client survey. The diversity of media choice available today makes it unrealistic for the optimal mix of talented generalists and specialists to reside under the one roof.

Achieving an ecosystem where there is genuine collaboration between agency partners, coupled with fair and incentivised compensation, is the model that agencies and client procurement departments need to aspire to.

The companies that are getting it right also embrace partnerships where this accelerates knowledge and experience in-house and brings specialism to clients that they couldn’t leverage on their own. Arguably, Google as a partner is a no brainer and we can certainly take heed from its “open source” model.


There are many lessons we can learn from Google. It continues to innovate faster than we can keep up. It has moved well beyond traditional search engines, and its voice search, mobile search by pictures and 3D animation tool are just some of the applications that are longing to be deployed against the marketing challenges clients face. For now, communication agencies are the best placed to deliver the marketing application of the app, as long as they apply their own insight and creativity to it.

With all of this in play, clients expect a higher degree of leadership and a clearer sense of direction from their agency partners. The importance of media agnosticism and communications planning in the development of brand strategy is already being recognised, and whoever can define and steer this will gain the trust of their client, if not the lion’s share of their business.

Regardless of which part of the communications matrix you occupy, creativity will remain the currency of the future. Great ideas will always be in demand no matter where media and technology take us. This is one of the only constant variables in our business today. Delivering against a creative agenda is in its very nature future-proofing your company. So whether you’re the next fleet-of-foot start-up or an established holding company, don’t relinquish the power of creativity in your quest for reinvention. l clients expect a higher degree of leadership and a clearer sense of direction from their agency partners


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