Staff Reporters
Feb 9, 2021

Agency Report Cards 2020: We grade 39 APAC agency networks

Campaign Asia-Pacific presents its 18th annual evaluation of APAC agency networks, based on their 2020 business performance, innovation, creative output, awards, staff development, diversity and leadership.

Agency Report Cards 2020: We grade 39 APAC agency networks

Welcome to Campaign Asia-Pacific’s annual Agency Report Cards. It's our 18th year of this critical industry benchmark, which has evolved to provide more comprehensive analysis and context as the marketing communications arena becomes ever more complex. 

The robust reports below, available exclusively to Campaign Asia-Pacific members, evaluate 39 of the top marcomms agency networks in Asia-Pacific for their work in 2020, the year where 'challenging' became an understated adjective. Agencies with clients in the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors, in professional sports and automotive had to immediately deal with cancelled ad and marketing spend. Those with large activation and experiential offerings had to pivot to virtual ones. Nearly every agency had to cope with a plunge in spending in the second and third quarter of the year before gradual recoveries took hold.

For the second year in a row, more agencies ended up with a lower overall grade (11) than a higher overall grade (9). While most agencies kept their overall grade even (15), there was considerable fluctuation for most in the categories described below. 

The Agency Report Cards are available to Campaign members only.
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A Unmatched B- Good D+ Needs work
A- Outstanding C+ Average D Poor
B+ Excellent C Satisfactory D- Struggling to survive
B Very good C- Passable F Failed

Inside each report card, alongside our analysis you will find key information, including each agency’s top Asia-Pacific clients, listed expertise and a critical breakdown of agency grading in five key categories:

1. Leadership: A qualitative assessment of leadership performance, key regional decisions, management stability and contributions to industry by agency leaders.

2. Creativity: Compelling and effective campaign work, judged qualitatively. Regional and global awards recognition is included, with higher weighting given to wins at major shows. Work demonstrative of high-effectiveness for clients is also considered.

3. Innovation: A qualitative assessment of Asia-based initiatives and innovations based on their improvements to the agency, people, clients and industry.

4. Business growth: Assessed by the value of accounts won and lost in 2019, as calculated by the agencies and R3’s New Business League, published in Campaign Asia-Pacific, along with recognition of new project work and organic growth through retained clients. 

5. People and diversity: Agency efforts to attract, retain and develop a high calibre of talent with a commitment to staff diversity, inclusion and wellbeing are examined qualitatively.

While one might expect most of these categories to drop in a challenging year, the resilience of agencies surprised us. While layoffs were inevitable for some, we also saw a new level of concern for employees amid the pandemic with flexible work arrangements, care packages and programmes to be more inclusive. Far more agencies advanced in the People and Diversity' category (11) than regressed (5). More surprising is that slightly more agencies also advanced than declined in the business growth category. Agencies soon found themselves called on by CMOs to help aid their digital transformation efforts. Many consulting and ecommerce practices began booming and those already set up to produce fast, efficient performance-based content thrived.  

Enter Accenture Interactive and MediaMonks, two newcomers to the list this year, which have long been described as more consultancy and production house, respectively, than agency.  Yet after years of competing with agencies in project pitches with similar capabilities to digital networks, they've been entered into the mix.

We also consolidated a number of other agencies at holding companies with highly integrated offerings—so integrated, as in the case of Publicis Groupe, that separating its creative and media agency brands becomes a nearly impossible task among mixed business teams built around clients. So this year we've assigned one report each for Publicis' creative and media sides. Dentsu is in the process of a similar construct, and this year it submitted a combined report for its creative agency network across both Japan and at Dentsu Mcgarrybowen internationally. On the media side, Dentsu has maintained its agency brands for now, but with Vizeum being absorbed by iProspect, we are no longer reviewing it separately. Next year, iProspect will join our agency analysis. 

Grading the agency ecosystem continues to become more challenging every year. Increasingly, more specialisms like commerce, CX, CRM, consulting, business transformation, data analytics, performance marketing, search and many others are becoming part and parcel of what almost every agency does. Our assessments will continue to evolve with these changes, along with the ever-elastic definition of what marketing agencies are here to do.

In this exceptional year, however, some very fundamental attributes stood out, and we tip our hat to the innovation, concern for well-being and leadership we saw emerge. From all of us at Campaign Asia-Pacific, we’d sincerely like to thank all the agencies for their considerable time and effort in preparing this year’s detailed submissions for our review.
Past Agency Report Cards: 20192018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

(Report Cards prior to the 2015 edition were published in print only)


Campaign Asia

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