Staff Reporters
Feb 10, 2017

2016 Agency Report Card

We assess 40 regional creative, media and digital agency networks on their 2016 performance.

Agency-by-agency analysis (available to subscribers only):
Creative agencies | Media agencies | Digital agencies

Introduction by Robert Sawatzky, head of content

Agencies are used to being judged, but it’s never an easy exercise—for them or for us.

We’d again like to thank all the firms for sending us detailed submissions and allowing our editors to discuss these further with senior management. Three agencies elected not to participate this year, but in keeping with our aim of benchmarking the industry, we continue to include these for review.

This year has once again presented its own unique set of agency challenges. Some agencies were hit by scandals, restructurings or shakeups. 

Yet all of them shared the same environment of slowing economic growth, political uncertainty and cautious ad spending. This backdrop partly explains why 10 agencies stepped up in their grade, while another nine dropped down a notch—a significant shift from last year when advancers vastly outnumbered declining agencies.

But it also reflects the old adage ‘what goes up must come down’. The higher an agency advances, the more difficult it is to maintain that grade. Often an individual office has an outstanding year, but similar success eludes the rest of the APAC network. Some of this year’s participants delivered in spades when it came to winning new business. Others produced simply outstanding creative work. There were numerous firms that pushed the envelope in developing new tools and technologies to serve clients better. Few managed to excel on all levels, or to scale.

There are good reasons for this too, of course. Not all clients want the same thing. Sometimes an agency needs to step back from new initiatives to take care of key clients. Smaller agencies may choose not to chase awards or spread themselves too thinly. Context is crucial, so while we followed the key criteria below in our methodology, we recognise they cannot be the same priorities for all. 

Keep in mind that those who retrench are likely to come back stronger in subsequent years. But moving up the ladder isn’t easy. The most successful agencies are forward-thinking, investing in the resources, skills and services their clients will need in future.


Creative, media and digital agencies were evaluated on four key criteria for the Agency Report Card:  

  1. Business performance: Assessed by the value of accounts won and lost in 2016, as calculated by the agencies and R3’s New Business League, published in Campaign
  2. Innovation and initiatives: A qualitative assessment of Asia-based initiatives and innovations based on their improvements to the agency, people, clients and industry
  3. The work and awards: Compelling and effective campaign work, judged qualitatively. Regional and global awards recognition is included, with higher weighting given to wins at major shows
  4. People: A qualitative assessment of leadership performance at each agency, along with efforts to attract, retain and develop a high calibre of talent

Score key

A Unmatched                  C- Passable
A- Outstanding D+ Needs work
B+ Excellent D Struggling
B Very good D- Poor
B- Good E Year to forget
C+ Above average E- Survival in question
C Satisfactory    


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