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Marketing Week relaunches Agency Reputation Survey

Marketing Week is relaunching its popular Agency Reputation Survey. Only this time, the survey will form the foundation stone of something much more ambitious.

The research, conducted among top clients by YouGov, will help to build up a comprehensive and thorough record of marketers’ attitudes towards agencies and advertising trends. We aim to add a lot of new qualitative material to the usual league tables.

It’s a subject, for better or worse, about which I know quite a lot – as I set up the first survey in 1989. There were plenty of league tables around then, many of them avidly followed. The problem was, they didn’t tell you enough. Agencies routinely exaggerated their self-complete billings figures by as much as they thought they could get away with. (The outdoor market must be much bigger than we supposed, we used to say). Nielsen figures, on the other hand were only a ratecard snapshot. Financial reporting was another route, but companies didn’t file their figures at Companies House regularly enough to make meaningful comparisons. Besides, the coming of the network groups meant that the performance of individual agencies was progressively consolidated into that of a few mammoth holding companies. That left reputation –  dissected over a wider variety of criteria such as creative excellence, planning, account handling, value for money and so forth, which could then be weighted and aggregated into a single super league. Agencies might not like the results very much, but it was what clients really thought – and that’s all that matters really.

Over the years, as I am acutely aware, the agency business has changed beyond recognition, with the splitting out of media buying/planning and the upsurge of digital. It is no longer possible, or probably desirable, to produce one mega ‘full-service’ league table. The new research will take account of that, by confining the survey, or rather surveys and updatable commentary, to more discrete areas – starting with creative agencies.

The top-line findings will be revealed in the autumn, although those involved in the survey will be offered a sneak preview prior to publication. The email inviting you to participate should be in your inbox this Thursday, so please look out for it.

The project is being led by my colleague, Sonoo Singh.

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