Digital Leagues 2010

Continuing economic uncertainty and shifting client demands are spurring digital agencies to revisit the 'integrated versus specialist' debate and broaden their offerings.

Orange handed its digital account to Publicis Modem last year
Orange handed its digital account to Publicis Modem last year

As we all know, consumers' appetite for digital content, products and services is insatiable. This, of course, is very good news for digital marketing agencies. Digital, in fact, has become a critical medium for all of the so-called 'traditional' disciplines, such as PR, research, advertising, experiential marketing and in-store activity.

Growth figures for the medium are impressive, particularly in light of the recent recession. According to the Internet Advertising Bureau, online advertising now accounts for nearly a quarter of total UK adspend - a record market share - with brands investing almost £2bn in the web between January and June this year. This equates to a 10% increase on the same period in 2009.

The recession, however, has clearly left its mark on agencies, with only a handful reporting increases in turnover between 2009 and 2010. Tangent One, glue Isobar and BlueHalo/GyroHSR reported growth of 28%, 21% and 20% respectively, but many other agencies - including AKQA and Digital Marketing Group - reported a drop in turnover. The tough conditions facing the sector were illustrated by the collapse of i-level and DGM UK earlier this year.

It is clear that digital agencies are having to work harder than ever to develop the integrated strategies and campaigns that marketers are demanding. Enda McCarthy, chief executive of Publicis Modem, which has won new business from Sky News, Bupa, Beefeater Gin and Orange, believes that digital agencies are taking a much more strategic approach to their briefs, which no longer call for digital work per se, but require a deeper appreciation of the client's business objectives and return on investment. 'As agencies' desires - if not necessarily their skills - converge, digital knowledge applied strategically, creatively and with respect to ROI from the start has never been more important,' he says.

As digital shops continue to widen their offering, traditional ad agencies are responding by bolstering their digital capabilities, either through acquisition or by organic growth. AQKA is reportedly in talks with Japanese group Dentsu, one of the ad world's biggest holding companies, about a prospective £600m sale. Cossette, meanwhile, the parent company of Dare and MCBD, is looking to merge the two agencies under the former's brand name as it seeks to integrate its UK businesses.

According to Matt Barnett, head of digital and direct at Haygarth, which has worked on digital campaigns for Gillette and Heinz, above-the-line agencies are threatened by the use of technology - such as augmented reality, digital editing and digital production - which is reducing the cost of campaigns.

Push for integration

Wayne Brown, deputy managing director of glue Isobar, claims the land-grab for digital budget, talent and strategic leadership has resumed as the industry has emerged from the recession, and digital agencies are finding different ways of addressing this shifting landscape.

'Many of the big design-and-build agencies have looked to add communications expertise to widen their offering and move upstream to foster broader client relationships. The holding groups are seeing an opportunity to build global digital network offerings to give their digital businesses genuine scale,' he says.

Brown adds that glue Isobar, which has worked on campaigns for Toyota, Google and the 6 Nations rugby tournament this year, is looking to develop a more integrated offering that appeals to brands who want to work with one agency that has genuine digital expertise stemming from a long history of specialism.

Earlier this year, VCCP took over O2's digital account from the longstanding incumbent Agency Republic. Peter Grenfell, digital managing director at VCCP, says the win is reflective of wider industry trends and demand from brands. He agrees with Brown that brands want to work with a single integrated agency that can create campaigns and deliver them effectively across all channels, from online direct response banners to 60-second TV spots.

It is a view shared by Paul Troy, head of sponsorship and advertising at Barclaycard, which devotes the majority of its marketing activity to digital. In the future, says Troy, brands will need an agency with a strong intrinsic digital culture that is capable of developing ideas that create real consumer engagement.

'That may come from either current suppliers - be they above-the-line agencies or digital shops evolving their offering - or from a new wave of agencies. In the short term, existing players will evolve, but in the long term, new agencies born with a digital culture will emerge and be a new force attracting clients to their offering,' he adds.

Jude Brooks, digital marketing director at Coca-Cola, says integration is being prompted by the fact that even the more traditional agencies have woken up to the power of digital and are starting to really appreciate the opportunities it brings. 'Television used to sit at the heart of a campaign and then be amplified by digital, but now digital plays a pivotal role in campaign evolution,' adds Brooks.

Other areas of growth within the digital marketing industry include social media and mobile, with practitioners looking at ways of improving performance from these channels. Brands are testing advanced targeting techniques and emerging formats such as video and mobile as well as looking to build business models around social media.

Ross Taylor, chief digital officer at TMW, which works with Nissan Infiniti and Unilever, believes that social media is no longer purely a consideration but now plays an integral role in the development of campaign strategies.

'Social media has now firmly established its place as a critical channel to drive awareness, relationships and even sales,' he explains.

Ian MacDonald, e-marketing manager at Autotrader, says mobile has finally emerged as a viable digital marketing platform, while social media's rise has given the brand the opportunity to reach audiences in new and engaging ways.

Digital benefits

The speed of developments in digital also means that marketers are looking for greater efficiency from the channel.

Pete Markey, marketing director at insurer More Th>n, says: 'We have brought all digital creative work in-house and (hired) specialists to achieve this, while digital strategy remains with our above-the-line agency. We have web designers and copywriters and usability specialists, which has not only driven cost benefits but also huge time-saving efficiencies.'

In light of the push for integration and a greater emphasis on cost and time efficiencies, there could be a case for arguing that brands will soon favour the use of one agency for all their marketing needs. Results International's latest Digital Valuation Survey, released last month, looked at future merger and acquisition activity among digital agencies. More than half of those surveyed said integration was more important than specialisation, reflecting client demand for full-service suppliers. Meanwhile, 60% said more than half of their revenues were derived from digital activity, with 45% saying 90% of their revenues came from this source.

According to Coca-Cola's Brooks, there is no easy answer to the integrated versus specialist agency debate.

'If a single agency is capable of delivering a great service across a multitude of marketing channels, then there would be many benefits, not least a far deeper understanding of the brand and its needs, but also less account management, leading to cost savings,' says Brooks.

She adds: 'In my experience with digital, it's hard to find an agency that is adept at absolutely everything within the digital spectrum, especially as technology and opportunities evolve so rapidly, so it just makes sense to use bespoke agencies for specific skills.'

Glue Isobar's Brown says that while some brands have sought to consolidate accounts into a single traditional agency, others are turning to digital specialists. 'Marketers realise that the deep and progressive digital thinking and execution they desire is best done unencumbered by those agencies delivering their TV, poster and press ads,' he argues. 'Making a great TV ad takes time and can quickly become the centre of gravity for any brand and agency team.

So it's no wonder that even the very best traditional agencies find it hard to combine this with creating rigorous and comprehensive digital strategies and execution.'

Toby Horry, joint managing director at Dare, which has worked with Sony Ericsson, says much of the debate around the relative merits of using specialist or integrated agencies comes down to the nature of the client. 'An online retailer with complex back-end IT is more likely to require a specialist digital agency to help run that aspect of the business,' he adds.

Horry believes that standalone digital agencies are hardly endangered, but in the future they will tend to be producers and executors of campaigns in specific digital fields, such as augmented reality, rather than contributors to the client's broader marketing strategy.

The jury is still out on the best business model for the industry. For the moment, as more agencies vie for a share of digital work, the challenge for digital agencies is to go beyond their traditional communications role and find ways to engage with customers through new products, services, apps, mobile phones and social media, while continuing to prove the channel's effectiveness.

Note from table:

Founded 1995. Publicly quoted. Chief executive Ewen Sturgeon. 10% consultancy, 12% design/build, 15% ecommerce, 8% mobile, 9% eCRM, 3% viral, 3% email, 5% ads, 24% search, 1% affiliate, 10% media. Clients include BT, LloydsTSB, Starwood.

EMC Consulting
Founded 1991. Subsidiary EMC Corporation. Global managing director Thomas P. Roloff. 15% consultancy, 20% design/build. 60% ecommerce, 5% CD-ROM. Clients include Barclaycard, Virgin Media, B&Q.

Syzygy Group UK
Founded 1995. Subsidiary Syzygy AG. Managing director Mark Ellis. 5% consultancy, 45% design/build, 5% mobile, 15% eCRM, 5% email, 25% ads. Clients include Mazda, DeBeers, Allianz.

Digital Marketing Group
Founded 2006. Publicly quoted. Chief executive Ben Langdon. 27% consultancy, 13% design/build, 13% ecommerce, 7% eCRM, 1% viral, 1% email, 1% ads, 2% search, 29% media, 5% other. Clients include PepsiCo, Santander, United Biscuits.

Founded 1995. Privately owned. European managing director Guy Wieynk. 25% consultancy, 25% design/build, 10% ecommerce, 15% mobile, 5% eCRM, 5% viral, 5% email, 5% ads, 5% search. Clients include Nike, Heineken, Fiat.

Founded 2000. Subsidiary Cossette. Joint managing directors Toby Horry, Claire Hynes. 12% consultancy, 32% design/build, 5% mobile, 5% eCRM, 10% viral, 3% email, 20% ads, 2% search, 11% other. Clients include Sony Ericsson, Vodafone, Barclays Group.

Founded 1998. Privately owned. Managing director Nick Blunden. 5% consultancy, 20% design/build, 3% mobile, 20% ads, 20% search, 7% affiliate, 25% media. Clients include Pepsi, COI, Fedex.

Founded 1987. Subsidiary Creston. Managing director Chris Freeman. 5% consultancy, 20% design/build, 5% ecommerce, 5% mobile, 25% eCRM, 5% viral, 15% email, 10% ads, 5% search, 5% other. Clients include Nissan, Infiniti, Unilever.

Founded 1995. Subsidiary Hasgrove. Chief executive Rod Hyde. 20% consultancy, 22% design/build, 5% ecommerce, 2% CD-ROM, 5% mobile, 5% eCRM, 2% viral, 2% email, 8% ads, 10% search, 15% other, 4% media.

MRM London
Founded 1990. Subsidiary Interpublic Group. Chief executive Mike Cornwell. 30% design/build, 10% ecommerce, 30% eCRM, 10% viral, 5% email, 5% ads, 10% other. Clients include Intel, Kraft Foods, Vauxhall.

Founded 1992. Privately owned. Managing director Alastair Macmichael. 15% consultancy, 35% design/build, 5% ecommerce, 10% eCRM, 5% viral, 5% email, 10% other

Tangent One
Founded 2002. Publicly quoted. Managing director Damien Bentley. 20% consultancy, 20% design/build, 30% ecommerce, 5% mobile, 15% eCRM, 2% viral, 5% ads, 3% search. Clients include SAP, Which?, Gala Coral.

glue Isobar
Founded 1999. Subsidiary Aegis Media. Chief executive Mark Cridge. 25% consultancy, 10% design/build, 2% mobile, 5% eCRM, 2% viral, 1% email, 30% ads, 25% other. Clients include Nokia, RBS/NatWest, Hutchison 3G.

Founded 2002. Subsidiary Chime Communications. Group managing director Dominic Stinton. 5% consultancy, 15% design/build, 5% mobile, 5% viral, 5% email, 25% online, 40% search. Clients include O2, Cheapflights, Virgin Money.

Reading Room
Founded 1996. Privately owned. Chief executive Margaret Manning. 30% consultancy, 38% design/build, 10% ecommerce, 1% mobile, 5% eCRM, 3% viral, 3% email, 5% ads, 5% search marketing. Clients include AutoTrader, G4S, Pernod Ricard.

Founded 1978. Privately owned. Managing director Douglas Broadley. 10% consultancy, 15% design/build, 10% ecommerce, 15% CD-ROM, 5% iTV, 10% mobile, 15% eCRM, 10% viral, 5% email, 5% ads. Clients include Ford, Shell, Samsung.

Agency Republic
Founded 2001. Subsidiary Omnicom. Managing director Matt Kwiecinski. 5% consultancy, 35% design/build, 5% mobile, 5% eCRM, 50% online advertising. Clients include Diageo, PlayStation, O2.

Harvest Digital
Founded 2001. Privately owned. Managing director Emma Wilson. 5% consultancy, 20% ecommerce, 10% eCRM, 25% search, 40% media. Clients include Tesco, NatWest, Experian.

Blue Barracuda Marketing
Founded 2001. Privately owned. Managing director Martin Talks. 10% consultancy, 10% design/build, 6% ecommerce, 7% mobile, 12% eCRM, 5% viral, 5% email, 7% ads, 14% search, 6% affiliate, 10% media, 8% other. Clients include Pizza Hut, eBay, Roche Pharmaceutical.

EHS 4D Digital
Founded 1992. Subsidiary RSCG 4D Global Network. Managing director Craig Walmsley. 10% consultancy, 25% design/build, 10% mobile, 20% eCRM, 10% viral, 25% ads. Clients include Barclays, Peugeot, Diageo.

VML London (as GT)
Founded 1994. Subsidiary WPP. Managing partner Chris Loll. 15% consultancy, 15% design/build, 15% ecommerce, 5% mobile, 10% eCRM, 5% viral, 5% email, 15% ads, 5% affiliate, 10% other. Clients include Microsoft, BBC, Premier Inn.

Founded 1998. Subsidiary Havas. Managing partners Jon Ingall, Stuart Archibald. 15% consultancy, 20% design/build, 5% e-commerce, 10% mobile, 7.5% eCRM, 5% viral, 7.5% email, 15% ads, 15% other. Clients include O2, EDF Energy, Skoda.

Brass (previously Swamp)
Founded 2002. Privately owned. Chief executive John Morgan. 15% consultancy, 20% design/build, 5% ecommerce, 5% mobile, 2% eCRM, 3% viral, 5% email, 8% ads, 8% search, 7% affiliate, 10% media, 12% other. Clients include DCSF, GSK, Yorkshire Building Society.

Publicis Modem
Founded 2007. Subsidiary Publicis. Chief executive Enda McCarthy. 10% consultancy, 36% design/build, 12% iTV, 6% mobile, 1% viral, 13% ads, 9% search, 13% other. Clients include Renault, LG, Hewlett-Packard.

Rufus Leonard
Founded 1989. Privately owned. Managing director Will Rowe. 15% consultancy, 30% design/build, 20% e-commerce, 5% mobile, 10% email, 10% ads, 10% other. Clients include British Gas, O2, LloydsTSB.

Founded 1999. Privately owned. Chief executive Ian Millner. 10% consultancy, 20% design/build, 15% ecommerce, 5% CD-ROM, 10% mobile, 5% eCRM, 5% viral, 5% email, 15% ads, 5% search, 5% other. Clients include Sony Ericsson, Philips, Adidas.

Carlson Marketing Group
Founded 1965. Publicly quoted. Managing director Olly Foot. 1% consultancy, 40% design/build, 5% ecommerce, 1% CD-ROM, 1% iTV, 5% mobile, 15% eCRM, 1% viral, 5% email, 11% ads, 1% search, 7% affiliate, 7% other. 28 n/a Work Club Group Founded 2007. Privately owned. Chief executive Martin Brooks. 16% consultancy, 26% design/build, 5% mobile, 10% eCRM, 5% viral, 5% email, 33% ads. Clients include Kraft Foods, PZ Cussons, Nokia.

Founded 2000. Subsidiary M&C Saatchi. Managing director Mel Cruickshank. 10% consultancy, 15% design/build, 2% ecommerce, 2% iTV, 2% mobile, 25% eCRM, 5% viral, 15% email, 20% ads, 4% search. Clients include Ishares, Mini, IKEA. 30 43 Twenty Six London Founded 1997. Subsidiary Media Square. Chief executive Gail Dudleston. 11% consultancy, 20% design/build, 15% ecommerce, 5% mobile, 5% eCRM, 3% viral, 3% email, 3% ads, 25% search, 5% affiliate, 5% other. Clients include Gatwick, House of Fraser, Procter & Gamble.

Positive Digital
Founded 2005. Privately owned. Managing director Julian Reiter. 10% consultancy,15% design/build, 25% e-commerce, 5% email, 45% search. Clients include VirginActive, City Index, Rank Interactive.

Founded 2000. Privately owned. Managing director Jon Davie. 10% consultancy, 30% design/build, 20% e-commerce, 40% media. Clients include Channel 4, BT, Coca-Cola.                 

Founded 2001. Subsidiary Mother. Partners Nick Farnhill, Peter Beech, Tom Hostler, Nick Roope. 20% consultancy, 50% design/build, 5% eCRM, 10% online, 15% other. Clients include Orange UK, Skype, Manchester City Football Club.

Founded 1996. Privately owned. Chief executive Robert Killick. 10% consultancy, 30% design/build, 5% e-commerce, 5% CD-ROM, 5% eCRM, 5% viral, 5% email, 5% search, 5% affiliate, 20% other. Clients include Barclays, Catlin, AkzoNobel.

Founded 1996. Privately owned. Chief executive Andrew Henning. 10% consultancy, 70% design/build, 2% mobile, 2% eCRM, 5% email, 1% online ads, 10% search. Clients include TDA, Electoral Commission, LIghterLife.

Founded 1995. Subsidiary Media Square. Managing director Martin Nieri. 22% design/build, 4% mobile, 17% eCRM, 7% viral, 9% email, 18% ads, 23% other. Clients include Kellogg's, Cadbury, Flybe.

The Group                              
Founded 1995. Subsidiary IR Group. Managing director Cathal Smyth. 15% consultancy, 85% design/build. Clients include Centrica, SABMiller, Tullow Oil.                          

Founded 1989. Privately owned. Managing director Paul Hoskins. 20% consultancy, 50% design/build, 10% e-commerce, 10% mobile, 5% eCRM, 5% email. Clients include British Heart Foundation, Heriot-Watt University, Sports Wales.

Realise Limited                       
Founded 1997. Privately owned. Chief executive Tony Murphy. 20% consultancy, 60% design/build, 5% mobile, 15% ads. Clients include Standard Life Investments, Nikon, Channel 4.    

Founded 1994. Privately owned. Managing director Steve Puxley. 10% consultancy, 40% design/build, 15% e-commerce, 15% mobile, 10% search, 10% other. Clients include DirectGov, Pfizer, IdeasTap.

Skive Group                           
Founded 2001. Privately owned. Group managing partner Sean Singleton. 15% consultancy, 45% design/build, 5% mobile, 5% viral, 10% email, 15% ads, 5% search. Clients include Nestle, Sky, Aviva. www.

Code Computer Love            
Founded 1999. Privately owned. Chief executive Tony Foggett. 7% consultancy, 29% design/build, 25% e-commerce, 1% CD-ROM, 4% mobile, 2% eCRM, 2% viral, 6% email, 9% ads, 9% search, 1% affiliate, 5% other. Clients include Matalan, First Group, Durex. 

Founded 2000.  Privately owned. Managing director Tom Huxtable. 20% consultancy, 15% design/build, 5% CD-ROM, 10% mobile, 10% eCRM, 10% viral,10% email, 20% ads. Clients include Department of Health, Barcardi, Sit Up TV.

Founded 1996. Privately owned. Managing director Suzanne Linton. 20% consultancy, 30% design/build, 5% e-commerce, 2% CD-ROM, 3% viral, 3% email, 2% ads, 3% search, 3% affiliate, 10% other. Clients include Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance, Alstom, TNT.

Founded 2001. Privately owned. Chief executive Tarek Nseir. 10% consultancy, 55% design/build, 25% e-commerce, 2% mobile, 1% eCRM, 1% viral, 1% email, 2% ads, 2% search, 1% other. Clients include BUPA, BBC, Research In Motion.

Jeffries Parsons Myers Harvey
Founded 2002. Privately owned. Managing director Nik Myers. 10% consultancy, 15% design/build, 15% e-commerce, 5% mobile, 25% eCRM, 5% mobile,10% email, 10% ads, 5% search. Clients include Nestle Purina PetCare, Research in Motion, William Grant & Sons.

Founded 2003. Privately owned. Managing director Greg Doone. 10% consultancy, 35% design/build, 5% e-commerce, 2.5% mobile, 2.5% email, 25% online, 20% other. Clients include Honda, Electronic Arts, BBC.

Founded 1979. Privately owned. Managing director Peter Matthews. 30% consultancy, 10% design/build, 54% e-commerce, 2% email, 4% search. Clients include Corinthia Hotels & Resorts. Haven Holiday, Rothschild.

Design UK                 
Founded 1997. Privately owned. Managing director Leigh Whitney. 15% consultancy,25% design/build, 25% e-commerce, 15% email, 10% ads, 10% search. Clients include New Look, Jaeger, Virgin Media Business.

Founded 2003. Privately owned. Managing director Rob Oubridge. 40% design/build, 40% e-commerce, 10% mobile, 10 ads. Clients include Lloyds of London, Manchester City FC, British Red Cross.   

Founded 1984. Privately owned. Managing director Marcus Sandwith. 24% consultancy, 38% design/build, 3% mobile, 20% eCRM, 5% email, 5% ads, 5% search. Clients include Palm, Heinz, Gillette.

Fuse Digital                            
Founded 2000. Subisdiary The Mission Marketing Group. Chief executive Dylan Bogg. 20% consultancy, 15% design/build, 5% e-commerce, 5% mobile, 5% eCRM, 10% viral, 10% email, 10% ads, 5% search, 5% affiliate, 10% other. Clients include GSK, Miele, Grant Thornton.

Founded 2004. Privately owned. Managing partners Robert Goldsmith and Brooke Dalton-Brewer. 20% design/build, 15% eCRM, 10% viral, 10% email, 30% ads, 15% other. Clients include Sony Pictures Releasing, HiPP Organic, AB World Foods.

Founded 1997. Privately owned. Managing director Andrew Sharland. 5% consultancy, 40% design/build, 25% e-commerce, 5% mobile, 10% eCRM, 2% email, 8% ads, 5% other. Clients include News International, BBC, Sportech.

Chameleon Net                      
Founded 1998. Privately owned. Managing director Vicky Reeves. 9% consultancy, 18% design/build, 42% e-commerce, 8% search, 23% other. Clients include The Random House Group, Diabetes UK, Unicef UK.

We are Social             
Founded 2008. Privately owned. Managing director Robin Grant. 100% other. Clients include Tesco, Coca Cola, Eurostar.                                           

Founded 1995. Subsidiary WB Doner & Co. Managing director Andrew Hawkins. 10% consultancy, 10% design/build, 5% e-commerce, 5% CD-ROM, 5% mobile, 25% eCRM, 5% viral, 15% email, 15% ads, 5% other. Clients include MG, Invisalign, Discovery Foods.

Enable Interactive                   
Founded 2003. Privately owned. Managing director Matt Connolly. 45% design/build, 30% e-commerce, 25% other. Clients include Drinkaware, UEFA, RNID.               

Founded 2009. Privately owned. Managing director Amanda Davie. 70% consultancy, 0% search, 10% other. Clients include, The Football Association, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Blueview Create                     
Founded 2008. Subsidiary of Blueview Group. Chief executive Graham Ede. 8% consultancy, 67% design/build, 10% email, 15% search. No clients submitted.                  

Tribal DDB London                
Founded 1996. Subsidiary DDB. Managing director Tom Roberts. 15% consultancy, 35% design/build, 5% mobile, 5% eCRM, viral, email, 30% ads, 10% other. Clients include Volkswagen UK, Virgin Media, Exxon Mobil.

Founded 1998. Subsidiary Grey Communications Group. Chief executive Tim Hipperson. 20% consultancy, 10% design/build, 5% mobile, 30% eCRM, 5% viral,15% email, 15% ads. Clients include Nectar, P&G, Nestle.

Source: Marketing Digital Leagues 2010

Methodology and Sarbanes-Oxley
Marketing's Digital Leagues are compiled from forms sent direct to
agencies. Turnover figures are for the calendar year of 2009 or the most
recently completed financial year. Due to the US Sarbanes-Oxley Act,
some agencies were unable to provide a breakdown of their figures for
digital turnover, so we are unable to rank them in the table. Marketing
takes care to publish accurate company data, but cannot be held
responsible for any errors or omissions.
For the full digital leagues, visit

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