Smaller shops outperform large agencies in latest billings report

The top ten agencies have posted an average decline of 3.14 per cent in billings, Nielsen Media Research for the year to September says.

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO has retained the top spot, despite suffering a 6.83 per cent dip. Of the ten largest agencies, Ogilvy & Mather posted the biggest jump up the rankings, from sixth to third, with the largest increase in billings - 16.72 per cent.

Lowe & Partners slipped a spot to fourth but still managed to post an increase of 9.23 per cent. Saatchi & Saatchi's £258 million in billings - a 10.52 per cent rise over last year - saw it climb from seventh to fifth place.

The biggest slide in rankings among the major agencies was seen by J. Walter Thompson London. It dropped from fourth to seventh on a 9.37 per cent decrease in billings.

Of the remainder of the top ten, Publicis, M&C Saatchi, Bates and TBWA/London all saw a decline.

However, big gains were made by smaller agencies including Wieden & Kennedy London, which rose from 60th to 24th on growth of 254.88 per cent. Mother rose eight to 28th and Cheetham Bell JWT surged from 53rd to 27th.

There were also major gains by several mid-size agencies. Bartle Bogle Hegarty posted a 30.13 per cent billings increase and climbed three to 16th and Partners BDDH jumped 44.64 per cent and five positions to take 20th.

The big loser for the period was HHCL & Partners, slipping four places and out of the top 20 to 21st with a 44.45 per cent drop in billings.

"The end of last year wasn't great for us; we lost Tango, Egg and the AA and are feeling the effects now," Nick Howarth, HHCL's managing director, said. "Every sector is under pressure but packaged goods clients are being a bit more circumspect."

In the media buying league, Universal McCann London moved from tenth to eighth with the largest percentage increase in billings - 16.58 per cent. MediaVest fell to tenth with a 7.42 per cent fall.

The main victims were the mid-strength operations, with BBJ Communications dipping 11.98 per cent, Walker Media sliding 16.87 per cent and Media Planning Group diving 31.9 per cent. MindShare and Starcom Motive registered significant rises of 11.28 and 13.38 per cent.

- Close-up, p18.

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