Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Mother and Clemmow Hornby Inge are the only ad agencies to make the Marketing Services Financial Intelligence's top ten of agencies, based on their financial credentials.
However, the marketing industry financial newsletter's annual review of the marketing sector showed a general deterioration in companies' finances in the face of mounting labour and interest costs over the past year.
BBH, led by the founder Nigel Bogle, has climbed one place to number two, while Mother has fallen from its 2005 number-one spot to third place. CHI has climbed three places from seventh in 2005 to fourth this year. At 16, i-level was the highest-placed digital agency.
The review examined the financial credentials of 57 privately owned companies under eight different categories. Good financial performance was awarded with a "plum". This year's winner was the design consultancy Jones Knowles Ritchie, the only company to score "plums" in all eight categories. BBH, Mother and CHI each scored seven plums.
DFGW showed the biggest decline in performance, falling from 18th place in 2005 to 50th this year. Both Profero and AKQA also recorded a deterioration in performance compared with last year.
Just 30 per cent of the companies achieved the benchmark operating profit margin of 15 per cent, while only 26 per cent managed to keep staff costs below 55 per cent of gross income.
Bob Willott, the editor of Marketing Services Financial Intelligence, said: "Although marketing services companies are still growing their turnover and profits, they risk storing up big problems if they can't control their staff costs."
While digital agencies showed the most improved financial performance of the past year, the report also revealed growing pains caused by advertising's shift from traditional to online media, particularly in the skills arena.
Willott added: "The cost of experienced digital marketing professionals, once less than that of their peers in advertising, is rising rapidly."
THE MARKETING SERVICES FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE TOP TEN
Rank Rank Company Market Latest Plums awarded
this last sector year end (Best=8,
year year Worst=1)
1 17 Jones Knowles
Ritchie Design 30 Jun 05 8
2 3 BBH Holdings Advertising 31 Dec 04 7
3 1 Mother Holdings Advertising 31 Dec 05 7
4 7 Clemmow Hornby
Inge Advertising 30 Jun 05 7
5 5 Sandom Group Design 31 Dec 04 7
6 47 Hill Murray Group Direct
marketing 30 Sep 05 7
7 2 RLA Group Media 31 May 05 7
8 16 Rapier Direct
marketing 31 Dec 04 6
9 9 BLM Holdings
Makin) Media 31 May 05 6
10 12 Media Campaign
Services Holdings Media 31 Jan 05 6
Source: Marketing Services Financial Intelligence.