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The Marketing and Advertising Agency Report 2021

Navigating Pressures and Seizing Opportunities Through a Pandemic and Beyond

About This Report
The agency ecosystem is complex. This report explains how the pandemic affected the landscape while also reviewing long-standing challenges and opportunities that agency professionals face as they balance the needs of clients with the complexities of running their business.
Table of Contents

Executive Summary

The relationship between brands and agencies is ever changing. Throw in a pandemic, seismic disruptions in marketing strategy, plus urgent digital transformation plans, and that partnership becomes even more complex, adding both stress and opportunities for agencies as they prioritize their own success while still meeting and exceeding client demands.

How has the pandemic affected marketing and advertising agencies?

In 2020, agencies saw declines in revenues and struggled to close new business deals, while many in the US received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding. Still, some agencies saw the tumultuous nature of pandemic as an opportunity to guide clients through a crisis. Furthermore, the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation for major brands, and agencies were and remain ready and waiting to assist in that journey.

Why do brands regularly audit their agency roster?

A big brand putting its agency business out for review is standard practice. It ensures the brand is getting the best work from its partners and keeps the ecosystem competitive. It also allows the brand to design a model that reflects the current state of marketing and advertising and its business priorities.

What is the state of in-housing?

The initial threat of brands in-housing isn’t as strong to agencies as it once was. Still, there are brands that bring commoditized capabilities in-house, and some even build their own shops if it’s a core differentiator or value proposition. Agencies are not threatened and see it as another way to guide and support clients as they build their team, skills, and operating model.

How can agencies best serve their clients in 2021 and beyond?

Agencies should focus on updating and evaluating their offerings to bring fresh and innovative ideas to the table, especially as clients change their needs. They should also understand their role when engaged in multi-agency brand ecosystem and be clear on how to deliver success. Lastly, agencies should be evaluating their operating model for a balance of depth and breadth with agility and scale.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report covers the pandemic’s impact on the agency landscape, reviews other challenges agencies face like roster audits and in-housing, and highlights priority areas for future growth.

KEY STAT: Agency executives worldwide are focused on improving multiple areas of their business for success in the future, including new business strategy (60%), productivity and efficiency (54%), profitability (54%), and attracting and retaining the right talent (47%).

Here’s what’s in the full report


Exportable files for easy reading, analysis and sharing.


Reliable data in simple displays for presentations and quick decision making.

21expert perspectives

Insights from industry and company leaders.

    Table of Contents

    1. Executive Summary
    2. Agencies Reflect on a Tumultuous Period
    3. Agencies Under Pressure Without a Pandemic
    1. Priorities for Future Growth
    2. Key Takeaways
    3. Insider Intelligence Interviews
    1. Read Next
    2. Sources
    3. Media Gallery

    Charts in This Report

    Interviewed for This Report

    Ricky Abbott
    President, Americas
    Interviewed March 5, 2021
    Neil Dawson
    Wunderman Thompson
    Global Chief Strategy Officer
    Interviewed March 16, 2021
    Kyle Fratini
    Executive Vice President, Growth and Strategy, Media Effectiveness
    Interviewed March 25, 2021
    Spencer Gordon
    Anheuser-Busch InBev
    Vice President, Digital
    Interviewed March 24, 2021
    Stacy Greiner
    Dun & Bradstreet
    Interviewed March 31, 2021
    Wesley ter Haar
    MediaMonks/S4 Capital
    Founder/Executive Director
    Interviewed March 19, 2021
    Toto Haba
    Benefit Cosmetics
    Senior Vice President, Global Marketing and Communications
    Interviewed March 18, 2021
    Scott Hagedorn
    Omnicom Media Group, North America
    Interviewed March 18, 2021
    Jon Halvorson
    Mondelēz International
    Global Vice President, Consumer Experience
    Interviewed March 31, 2021
    Ben Laws
    Executive Vice President and Market Lead, West
    Interviewed March 19, 2021
    Michael McLaren
    Global CEO, B2B Group
    Interviewed March 15, 2021
    Matt Naeger
    Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, Americas
    Interviewed March 18, 2021
    Raja Rajamannar
    Interviewed March 17, 2021
    Al Reid
    Saatchi & Saatchi
    Managing Director
    Interviewed April 1, 2021
    Stephanie Russell
    Carat USA
    Chief Client Officer
    Interviewed March 18, 2021
    Keith Schwartz
    Co-Founder and CEO
    Interviewed March 3, 2021
    Lindsey Shepard
    Interviewed April 12, 2021
    Mark Sneider
    Owner and President
    Interviewed March 16, 2021
    Tom Stein
    Stein IAS
    Chairman and Chief Client Officer
    Interviewed March 5, 2021
    Joe Toubes
    Vice President, Global Marketing
    Interviewed March 24, 2021
    David Whiting
    Executive Vice President and US Market Lead, East
    Interviewed March 19, 2021


    Jillian Ryan


    Jeremy Goldman
    Principal Analyst
    Nicole Perrin
    Principal Analyst
    Tracy Tang
    Senior Researcher
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