But the figures within these pages tell a story that will colour the business for years to come, no matter how far and how fast we now pull away from recession. Savage job cuts, brutal working regimes imposed by inadequate resource, desperate promises to win business: all these will affect agencies' corporate health beyond the span of the downturn.
But before we can think ahead, some comments on this year's report. First, our scoring system is based on how an agency has performed against its own/our/the industry's expectations of it. So if a brilliant agency (say, Fallon) has a disappointing year (which it did), it will be marked lower than an agency such as Karmarama, which has never (and may never) hit the Fallon heights but which made some real leaps forward.
I make this point about agencies being scored on their own terms every year but it's worth saying again because, every year, I still get irate calls asking: "How can you give xyz crap agency a higher score than us when we're one of the best in town?" And, anyway, it would, of course, be impossible to score an Ogilvy against a Naked or a MediaCom against an Elvis.
It's also worth saying that the Nielsen billings figures in this report include, for the first time, measurable digital billings, though in truth, these make very little difference to most big agencies' tallies.
Whatever your view of how we survived 2009, I'm determined to end this introduction on a positive note. So: the pain of last year forced some tough decisions (job losses, salary cuts, functional reorganisations), but those challenges have left many agencies with a clearer sense of purpose and a leaner machine with which to effect it. Good luck for 2010.Claire Beale, editor, Campaign