All agencies that were considered in "The Forrester Wave: Lead Agencies, Q4 2016" study had to be leading overall traditional and digital creative for at least 10 clients and those lead agency relationships must make up at least 30% of their client rosters. The study said this kept agencies that are more digitally focused, such as DigitasLBi, OgilvyOne and Wunderman, from participating, as well as shops with more traditional assignments, like TBWA.
360i, VML and R/GA are "better to lead in this current marketing environment" because they're "uniquely positioned with their digital heritage," said Sarah Sikowitz, principal analyst serving business-to-consumer marketers at Forrester. All three shops were on Ad Age's last Agency A-List.
"360i sets the new pace for lead agencies with its ability to both deliver digitally-led strategies and help clients adapt internally to fully realize those strategies, with investments such as an experience design capability and an organizational consulting practice," according to the research.
As for VML, the study points to the shop's "omnichannel-friendly creative, client service and purposeful approach to collaboration," while R/GA was called out for its work with "clients who want not only innovative ways of communicating their brand value but also reimagined ways of experiencing it, down to new products and services."
Forrester said it was "impressed" with how all three leading shops have corporate visions around investing in creative talent, data and technology, said Ms. Sikowitz.
She said that she began doing lead agency research more than a year ago after hearing that marketers, through their agency partners, were "missing the integrated approach that spanned digital and traditional channels."
Agencies that qualified also had to have at least 35% of their U.S. revenue coming from brand advertising and creative services, which nixes shops such as Huge, which has a large digital development practice, or iCrossing, which leans more toward media buying, the study states.
After initially looking at "30 to 40 agencies" and their capabilities, Forrester narrowed its study down to eight shops that fit all lead agency criteria. The other top-performing lead agencies that were evaluated include Barkley, Publicis North America, Havas Worldwide, McGarryBowen and Hill Holliday. Forrester surveyed five to seven client references for each agency and conducted reference calls with an additional three clients per shop.