Media: Perspective - Top 300 can only say so much while shops remain coy

There will be those who are furious. Those who are disappointed.

There will be those who are furious. Those who are


Those who are relieved. Those who will grit their teeth and determine to

do better next year. There will even be those who are satisfied.

Everyone will have a view on our Top 300 report and most will probably

admit that we’ve been fair.

Our agency assessments are based not just on billings and new business,

but also on business development, management, service, organic growth

and a whole host of issues that go well beyond piling on the billings

dosh. For media agencies in particular, which have invested so much time

and money in recent years establishing strategic credentials, launching

econometric units and boosting planning, billings figures are only one

marker of true success.

Sure, billings figures are crucial as a measure of agency clout and a

certain volume of buying is still important for driving good deals, but

most of the top 15 agencies have big enough biceps to pack a fair

negotiating punch. What’s more interesting is how much money agencies

are really making out of the added-value services they’ve been peddling

for the past few years.

Unfortunately, it’s a question I can’t answer with any degree of

certainty because when it comes to putting their income figures where

their hype is, you can see from the Top 300 report that many media

agencies are loath to do it. I understand why. For too long, media has

been a business where agencies have undercut each other and handled work

for ridiculously low margins; income data potentially intensifies the

spotlight thrown on to what each advertiser is paying their agency.

Yet billings alone are really no way to judge an agency’s progress in an

era that embraces new and old media, creative planning, hard-nosed

buying, econometric advice and a raft of rounded communications


Income data is no panacea, but it’s surely a fairer measure of an

agency’s success when looked at alongside billings figures. And as long

as agencies allow themselves to be judged merely by their position in

the billings league, they are inviting many of the less sophisticated

clients to use similarly crude pile-it-high, buy-it-cheap measures of

agencies’ abilities.

You’ve only got to look at last week’s report into finance directors’

views of marketing - which shows that client companies still have a deep

suspicion about the real value of advertising and marketing - to see how

far agencies still have to go to justify charging a real price for their

services. If media is to raise its status within the wider industry,

such issues must be addressed. Until that happens, while we pore over

the new media agency league tables, there’s one sector of the business

that probably won’t have a comprehensive view on them, and that’s the

clients themselves. Unfortunately, many client company chiefs still

don’t give a damn.


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