There has been lot’s of discussion in the creative agency world about the impact of digital marketing and how agencies should respond. It appears every agency from advertising networks like BBH to traditional DM shops like OgilvyOne to creative hotshops have put “Digital at the Heart of the Agency.”
Only this past May Alastair Reid reported in Campaign a reasonably balanced article about the increase in digital awards being won by traditional agencies, and brought out the classic Goodby turnaround in the US a few years ago.
But whose really been winning?
Looking at the 2008 NMA Top 100 that was just released last week, we see that Digital agencies have seen another year of solid growth — averaging 20% across the list. In his introduction Michael Nutley also makes a balanced argument for the state of the industry.
But maybe we are being too analytical — if one uses the simple measure of headcount over the last 5 years, we can see where the growth has been and inferr that this represents shifts in revenue.
The top digital agencies have had an amazing run since 2003. I take 2003 because it is 5 years ago and it was solidly after the collapse in 2001-2. From ad hoc conversations I think that agencies like AKQA have gone from say 120 in 2003 to over 350 today — that is 191% growth in London alone. Dare was probably about 60 people in 2003, and now reports having 174.
I’ll need to do more digging to get good numbers but here is a basic table I’ve pulled together from industry articles and league tables and rough memory. It will be interesting to check in another year’s time.