The total number of reviews declined despite AAR’s latest New Business Pulse report finding a 9.4% increase in advertising and 6.5% growth in integrated appointments.
There was no change in the number of advertisers with spend above £20m selecting a new agency in the first quarter. The four major brands this year were Dixons Carphone, KFC, Vodafone and Boots.
AAR said the size of the integrated accounts moving "remained at the same low value level as in previous years" and the number of completed reviews is inflated by "the government frameworks’ desires to make more integrated appointments".
CRM, digital and media reviews were down 22%, 20.8% and 36.6% respectively in the first three months of the year.
However, Chris Hirst, group chairman of Havas UK and chief executive of Havas UK and Europe, expects the situation to reverse. He said he has seen "really quite noticeably" more CRM reviews kicking off at the beginning of this year compared with 2016.
He also predicted that there will be more integrated reviews during the whole year as an increasing number of brands are bringing services together.
Hirst added: "There’s going to be fewer and fewer pure-play digital pitches. It’s not really a standalone
capability any more."
Tammy Einav, joint chief executive of Adam & Eve/DDB, echoed this view. She said: "When we are pitching, we are looking at all touchpoints and digital is part of that."
The report only includes completed reviews. Many major advertising pitches are ongoing, including Britvic, Cadbury and Costa. In media, ongoing reviews include Anheuser-Busch InBev, Barclays, Carlsberg, Ocado, PSA Group and Procter & Gamble.
Kerry Glazer, chief executive of AAR, said: "It is too early to make any forecasts as to how the health of the new-business market will look by year end.
"However, for many agency staff, this has been the busiest start to a new year in living memory. We will wait for the next quarter’s results to see this sense being evidenced in the figures."