Agency Report 2009 Methodology

How Ad Age collects data

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Advertising Age's DataCenter produced the Agency Family Trees 2009 as a print-edition poster and our interactive AgencyFamilyTrees09, an online database application. The poster shows primary holdings of the world's top four agency companies by 2008 revenue. The online application shows holdings of the world's top 50 agency companies.

Send your ideas to improve the Agency Report or Agency Family Trees, update us on holdings or report errors. E-mail: [email protected]

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The 65th annual Advertising Age Agency Report, published April 27, 2009, was produced by the Ad Age DataCenter. The report appeared in Ad Age's print edition and on It includes rankings of more than 900 advertising, marketing-services and media agencies based on 2008 revenue.

Agency Report online content is available to Ad Age DataCenter subscribers. For subscription information, go to

Revenue for the report reflects the sum of agency fees; markup on materials and services; and commissions on media billings. Ad Age's definition of revenue excludes pass through. Under this definition, revenue for marketing services agencies often is equivalent to gross profit (sales minus cost of sales).

Ad Age drew information for the Agency Report from agency questionnaires submitted by agencies. Any agencies wishing to receive a questionnaire for Ad Age's spring 2010 report should e-mail a request to [email protected]. New questionnaires also will be available for download in early 2010 at

Agencies generally submit revenue and other data on that questionnaire. Ad Age estimates revenue for most agencies owned by publicly held agency companies and for some independent agencies.

Most publicly held agency companies choose not to publicly disclose revenue at the agency level. These firms opted to reduce their disclosure after Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in July 2002.

The Ad Age DataCenter estimates revenue based on analysis of available agency, holding-company and market data, including input from industry executives.

Figures for 2007 are based on data gathered and analyzed in 2009 and may be restated from figures published in the previous Agency Report.

In preparing rankings, Ad Age first determines an agency's type: advertising, marketing services or media. Classification depends on where the agency gets a majority of revenue.

Regardless of classification, each agency has a chance to appear on an Ad Age all-industry ranking of agencies from all disciplines. This is a new ranking that debuted in the May 2008 report.

Ad Age recognizes that both ad agencies and marketing-services agencies often provide services involving digital, direct marketing and promotion. As a result, both ad agencies and marketing-services agencies are considered for breakout rankings of digital, direct marketing and promotion. For these rankings, Ad Age applies a 75% rule:

If revenue from the discipline in question represents less than 75% of an agency's total, only the discipline's amount is shown for that agency in the chart. However, if the discipline's amount is greater than 75% of an agency's total revenue, an agency is included in that discipline at 100%. The rationale: When digital, for example, accounts for 75%-plus of an agency's revenue, other disciplines such as direct marketing largely support the agency's primary business.

Ad Age recognizes that digital services often overlap with other services. A 100% direct-marketing agency or a 100% promotion agency, for example, might execute 40% of its work through digital services. Such an agency would rank, based on 100% of its revenue, on the direct ranking or the promotion ranking; it would also rank on the digital ranking, measured at 40% of its revenue.

Agencies classified as healthcare, with 50% or more of revenue generated by healthcare, are ranked on a separate healthcare-agencies chart. However, an agency with a healthcare discipline in which revenue from that discipline is less than 50% of total revenue is classified as an ad agency and ranked among ad agencies.

Rankings show agencies' parent companies. In some cases, especially with multicultural agencies, the "parent" owns less than 50% of the agency.

Average annual exchange rates, posted with the questionnaires available at, are applied to non-U.S. currencies. Ad Age's historic treatment of currencies leaves each year with its own rate.

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