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New MediaSense/WFA survey predicts even more agency consolidation

MediaSense and the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) have put the cat among the pigeons with a new client survey – The Future of Media Agency Models – with one in four of the more than 70 multinational marketing organizations surveyed for the report saying they plan to consolidate media, creative, data and technology agencies in the next three years, and 37% saying they are looking for simplification through working with fewer partners.

All of which should mean that ad holding companies will be able to tighten their stranglehold on advertising services (they already dominate media), or would be if they performed better. One WFA respondent said: “We consolidated media, creative and PR with one holding company but in effect it is still like working with three separate agencies, and I feel that their internal politics are more difficult to work with than when we had three separate agencies.”

MediaSense managing partner Ryan Kangisser says: “There feels like there’s a clear direction of travel, which has really been accelerated by the last three years of growth in e-commerce, influencer and social coming together. Now with all that wonderful data and technology driving that, there’s much more momentum to make integration happen.

“Specialists remain important around those emerging channels like e-commerce, retail and influencer, but when are we going to see a major multinational appoint an S4 Capital or Stagwell to a major full service scope of work?” Kangisser said that the role of specialists is “precarious” unless they can seamlessly integrate with the wider agency model.

Somewhat predictably this didn’t go down well with digital convert Sir Martin Sorrell whose S4 Capital (so far) is a digital-only holding company (he might not agree with that either.)

Sorrell told Ad Age the survey was “mixing apples and oranges and “a purely digital, data-driven (powering AI), faster, better, more efficient, unitary model resonates with clients, Just look at the last five years relative like-for-like revenue growth for the industry and S4. We’re focused on the faster growth two-thirds of the $900 billion media market.”

On paper holding companies have always been able to out-match specialists for really big clients despite the latter’s regular complaints about their performance and opaque means of charging. That’s certainly the case in media although creative has seen a comeback for so-called specialists with the likes of Uncommon and New Creative Arts winning big accounts in the UK and Wieden+Kennedy wresting Ford away from Omnicom’s BBDO and WPP. The more successful newbie creative agencies also have a wider offering these days, majoring on CX as much as advertising.

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