Advertiser Survey Shows Upheaval in Industry

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Hey, Martin Sorrell: Here's the good news. A new survey of hundreds of marketing executives by Advertiser Perceptions ranks WPP the best agency holding company.

Now for the bad news. Accenture, Deloitte and IBM all made the top two quartiles in the digital portion of the survey and Ken Pearl, CEO of Advertiser Perceptions, says one in three respondents are considering kicking business to consulting firms' digital units. Additionally, 27 percent of marketers surveyed say they use Facebook and Google for services that were once the domain of their traditional agencies. And 30 percent are likely to bring media planning and buying in-house.

The report, dubbed "Choosing the Right Ad Agency," shows just how rapidly the ad industry is changing and covers nearly 100 agencies rated by more than 600 U.S. marketing executives across some of the country's largest advertisers, Pearl says. While Pearl declined to disclose specific marketers that participated in the survey, he says they included most of Ad Age's 200 Leading National Advertisers. All marketers in the survey have advertising budgets of more than $5 million, with 80 percent having budgets of more than $10 million, 58 percent having budgets larger than $25 million, 34 percent have budgets larger than $50 million and 16 percent have more than $100 million to spend.

The survey participants ranked WPP the highest among rivals Dentsu, Havas, Interpublic, MDC, Omnicom and Publicis in 30 key criteria and perception points across five main factor areas: service and staff, expense, scale, creativity and strategy and execution.

As further evidence of how the industry is morphing, survey respondents gave Burson-Marsteller the highest creative reviews alongside Leo Burnett. While it may seem like a shocker that Burson, traditionally more of a PR agency, was named as one of the top creative agencies, Pearl says Advertiser Perceptions decided to place the agency in that category as an experiment. All of the agencies within the creative group were rated on the same criteria, such as originality, analytics, talent, accessibility, diversity of staff and so on, he says.

Other creative agencies to make the top two quartiles – meaning they ranked in the highest and second- highest 25 percentiles – include 72andSunny, Arnold, BBDO, Deutsch, FCB, Grey, J. Walter Thompson, Mullen-Lowe, Ogilvy and Saatchi & Saatchi.

On the search side, survey participants gave top marks to 360i, Acronym, Catalyst, Performics, Resolution Media and SapientRazorfish, and in media the top spots went to Assembly, Horizon Media and UM.

In addition to the rankings, the majority (68 percent) of marketers surveyed said they feel that their agencies are not open and transparent on cost. However, 63 percent of marketers admitted that they are not willing to share meaningful KPIs with their agencies. "For an agency to be successful, marketers need to share useful information," says Pearl.

The survey, which only includes responses from marketers who are involved in agency review and selection decisions – 59 percent of whom are VP level and above – was fielded in May 2017.

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