With 16.4% Growth, Digital Is Adland's Star Performer

Overall Digital Revenue Composes 30% of Agency Revenue

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You need more than 10 digits to count digital.

Last year, U.S. agencies generated 30.3% of revenue, or $10.1 billion, from digital, compared with 28.0% in 2010, according to Ad Age DataCenter.

Digital revenue at agencies surged 16.4% in 2011, with growth across agency disciplines.

Digital-specialty agencies (digital pure plays, including search marketing, social media and mobile-marketing agencies) accounted for about six in 10 digital dollars, or $5.9 billion.

But agencies of all types are dialing up digital. The shift is most evident in customer-relationship management and direct marketing, where agencies pulled in an estimated $2.8 billion in U.S. digital revenue.

For the first time, digital services last year accounted for more than half of U.S. revenue at CRM/direct-marketing agencies.

The rest of the digital cache -- $1.4 billion -- was spread across other agency disciplines.

At Cramer-Krasselt, a major independent ad agency, 39% of revenue was generated from digital. At Huntsworth Health, a health-care agency network, digital accounted for 30%. Edelman, the nation's biggest public-relations agency network, drew 14% of revenue from digital -- you can't do PR without understanding social media.

Ad Age DataCenter's 30.3% digital tally came from a bottoms-up analysis based on Agency Report data compiled for nearly 1,000 agencies, agency networks and agency companies.

The figures track with the global digital claims of two agency giants. Publicis Groupe said digital accounted for 30.6% of 2011 worldwide revenue, up from 28.0% in 2010. WPP reported direct, digital and interactive revenue equal to 29.7% of revenue last year, vs. 28.9% the year before.

Omnicom Group, the second-largest agency company, has largely stayed on the sidelines while its rivals pull out the checkbook for big digital acquisitions. Omnicom does not release a digital percentage, but it makes the case that digital is integrated throughout its ad and media agencies.

Omnicom President-CEO John Wren told stock analysts in February: "We believe that 2011 was the year in which the historical distinction between so-called traditional and digital media disappeared, as we had always said it would. ... Everything we do has a digital component to it."

In a sign of the times, Omnicom last year changed the name of its biggest operating segment from "traditional media advertising" to simply "advertising."

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