Paul Simons: what the Top 100 billings tell us about the changing of the guard in adland

The 2016 UK Top 100 agencies league table was published recently and it reveals some of the changing landscape of the industry if you dig a bit deeper into the information.

One overarching caveat prior to commenting, I fully recognise the league table is based on Nielsen’s analysis of media spend by client, and not revenue or profit of the agencies listed.

The big groups are not quite how we perceive them.

To my surprise WPP has just one agency brand in the top ten, Grey, whereas Publicis has four with BBH, Leo Burnett, Saatchi and Saatchi and Publicis. Omnicom has two, AMV and A&E. WPP’s other agency brands are 12,13,15 and 16. I bet SMS has had a few words with the various CEOs of the also rans.

There are some big gainers.

Grey again with a whopping 25 per cent increase in billings. Publicis also up by 25 per cent. Saatchi & Saatchi with an impressive +20 per cent. A few others worth mentioning would include Karmarama, Brothers and Sisters and Lucky Generals.

And some big losers.

This is quite a big list and quite surprising. Three of WPP’s agencies have suffered big losses – Y&R, JWT, CHI. Fallon dropped a third in billing terms, 18 Feet & Rising by a similar amount taking them to the relegation zone at 49. Other big losers include BMB, Proximity, Mcgarrybowen, VCCP, WCRS. M&C Saatchi has its year of pain with billings losses of 37 per cent in combination with the outing of Lean Mean Fighting Machine from the flight deck.

Some silent infiltrators.

Two surprises for me were Home and Above & Beyond: who I hear you ask? Well both are inside the top 30 at 27 and 28 respectively, with bookend names such as Red Brick Road and St Luke’s. Home is a Leeds based agency with three other outposts and they handle a lot of betting brands. Above & Beyond is an East London based creative business merging film and advertising skills. The scary fact for the boys and girls in Golden Square is they are both growing at c. 50 per cent per annum and are just below the once-mighty M&CSaatchi.

The new breed finally walks the talk

Anomaly (above) finally found traction in the UK with an increase in billings of 178 per cent, the biggest riser in the top 50 by a long way. The Anomaly model developed by Carl Johnson and his partners in New York has been very slow to take off over here but I suspect that’s been a people issue. They’ve turned the corner and now they are cooking on gas. Watch out all conservative agency brands. If Droga5 can also get their act together in 2017 we may well see further shifts in an ever-changing landscape.

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About Paul Simons

Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.

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