Agencies

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Note from the editor

After struggling for years with growth, agencies are on the upswing. The pandemic has pushed brands to seek outside help in navigating digital channels like e-commerce, while changing data mandates are leading to a proliferation of specialty service providers, such as WPP's recently launched Choreograph. Forecasts predict marketing spend will continue to rebound following a fallow 2020, priming the category for greater innovation and dealmaking.

Even as bottom lines improve, agencies have plenty of old baggage and new challenges to address. Burnout is widespread in the industry and sometimes amplified by remote work. Diversity and inclusion figures still fall short in both internal operations and consumer-facing messaging — gaps that have resulted in a recent outpouring of pledges to diversify media spending. In-housing also looms large as brands wrest greater control over their marketing, while alternative services providers are snatching up more new business.

Agility and nimbleness, not historically areas where large agencies have excelled, remain the big-ticket items on the agenda in an overall challenging year. In the report below, Marketing Dive examines:

  • Emerging service areas, from culture to nonfungible tokens, where blue-chip brands are looking to agencies for help
  • Disruptor perspectives on the agency space from S4 Capital's Martin Sorrell
  • How agencies are looking to sustain newfound momentum in an uncertain second half

The pandemic remains an obstacle to agency work, particularly with the spread of COVID-19 variants. This collection of content shows examples of where players in the space can thrive — as well as some necessary areas for improvement to address — in the months ahead.

Peter Adams Reporter

How agency holding groups could sustain newfound momentum in H2 2021

Omnicom is pursuing more acquisitions in areas like digital transformation, commerce and media — a tack its competitors could follow.

• Published Aug. 23, 2021

Why winning brands like Taco Bell still look to agencies for help on culture

Mature companies face steeper challenges to growth and could need third-party expertise to connect with new audiences and pop on emerging platforms.

• Published Aug. 23, 2021

Celeb-backed agencies are ready for their close-ups

Ryan Reynolds, Shaq, Tony Hawk, Dwayne Johnson and Pitbull are putting their star power behind marketing agencies that are more than just vanity projects.

• Published Aug. 20, 2021

Martin Sorrell on how S4 Capital is disrupting the legacy agency model

Three years into his post-WPP venture, the ad world titan explains why his company is prepared for a digital-only future and how it's addressing post-pandemic challenges.

• Published Aug. 20, 2021

How AB InBev's Draftline guides the company — and what brands get wrong about in-house agencies

The internal shop, which secured its first Grand Prix win at Cannes Lions 2021, is able to jump on fast-moving trends due to clear strategic mandates, global vice president Tracy Stallard said.

• Published Aug. 23, 2021

NFTs remain technology in search of clear brand strategy. Can agencies bridge the gap?

Bespoke new services from shops like Vaynermedia represent big rolls of the dice on a space that's already seeing some of its initial media fervor cool.

• Published Aug. 23, 2021

Inside BBDO's plan to boost underrepresented creators in ad world

With the BBDO Studios Collective, the agency seeks to elevate diverse creators looking to break into advertising with mentorship and opportunities.

• Published Aug. 20, 2021

Inside the growing world of marketing agencies

The pandemic pushed brands to seek outside help in navigating rapidly growing digital channels like e-commerce. Forecasts predict marketing spend will continue to rebound following a fallow 2020, priming the category for greater innovation and dealmaking.

included in this trendline
  • Why winning brands like Taco Bell still look to agencies for help on culture
  • Celeb-backed agencies are ready for their close-ups
  • Agency holding groups could sustain newfound momentum in H2 2021
Our Trendlines go deep on the biggest trends. These special reports, produced by our team of award-winning journalists, help business leaders understand how their industries are changing.
Davide Savenije Editor-in-Chief at Industry Dive.