The UK's top 50 agencies grew gross income by 3.7% to £1.6bn as they battled against rising costs, the threat of in-housing and the pressure clients are under to tighten belts in a period of economic uncertainty.
Moore Kingston Smith's analysis of the 2018 financial accounts of agencies including Ogilvy, McCann, Engine, VCCP and Grey compared the results with the same financial reporting period in 2017 to reveal the biggest winners and losers.
In a handful of cases where only financial results for the year ended December 2017 were available, the results were compared with 2016.
Overall, it's a mixed picture, with some significant winners and losers.
Within the top 10, The & Partnership saw the biggest rise in gross income, with a 21% increase to £85m. VCCP was up 15% to £65.8m and McCann rose 14.9% to £209.8m.
There were only three agencies among the top 10 that saw year-on-year gross income fall. Ogilvy was down 5.6% to £114.9m, Engine fell 4.4% to £87.8m and Saatchi & Saatchi was marginally down 2.5% to £57.7m.
Looking more broadly at the top 50, MullenLowe, which acquired creative shop 101 and Salt PR in 2017, was a big riser in 2018, with a 97.6% increase in income to £31.6m. The agency won 17 accounts last year and lost 11.
In the case of BMB and Cheil, only 2017 results were available. Both performed strongly, with income up 44.6% (to £9.3m) and 30.1% (£14.7m) respectively.
On the other end of the scale, among the biggest losers in the year to December 2018 were Fallon, down 45% to £3m, having lost Cadbury; Leo Burnett, which lost Kingfisher in 2018 as the brand went in-house and saw income drop 30.2% to £23.5m; and FCB Inferno, whose saw income fall 19.8% to £17.4m.
"Of the 50 agencies, 28 recorded growth in gross income, of which seven agencies saw increases of over 15%," Esther Carder, head of media at Moore Kingston Smith, said. "Across the sector, a proportion of the growth in gross income is as a result of group agencies simplifying their structures and combining agencies to focus on joined-up client delivery.
"Whilst improved top-line figures show growth within the sector as a whole, margins have fallen as spend on staff costs has increased, leaving room for improvement."