Pitch activity is up, but new business revenues are dropping during the pandemic

Source: Unsplash
Source: Unsplash

Agencies are pitching more than ever for new business, but account billings are down during the pandemic.

Despite a year colored by a global pandemic, the number of new business pitches have remained largely steady around the world. 

What has changed for agencies is the size of new business revenue.

Year-to-date, there have been just shy of 4,691 pitches combined between creative and media agencies globally, up 0.5% from the 4,713 pitches in the same period last year. Revenue, on the other hand, has dropped by a whopping 12%, from $1.9 billion to $1.7 billion -- and creative agencies are bearing the brunt of it.

That’s according to R3 Worldwide’s latest global new business league table, which shows that creative agencies are pitching more for businesses that are willing to pay less money over the course of the year. New business revenue at creative agencies globally declined 15% to roughly $1.1 billion this year, from $1.2 billion last year.

Media agencies, on the other hand, are experiencing a slightly stronger year globally, with pitch revenues down just 7.7% to roughly $245 million, while the overall number of new business wins rose 3% to 138. 

The trend is similar in the United States, where creative agency new business revenues declined 11.6% year over year in September to $346 million, while media agency revenues dropped just 3.6% year over year to $245 million. Meanwhile, the overall number of new business wins at U.S. creative agencies rose 8.7% to 362 year over year, and media agencies saw a 7.1% jump in new business wins to 500.

In September, three of the top five creative  agencies worldwide in new business rankings -- VMLY&R, Ogily and Wunderman Thompson --  were from WPP, marking a good year for the holding company from a new business perspective. Accenture’s acquisition of Droga5 last year also appears to have paid off, as the agency is one of the top five agencies globally in new business pitches, and comes in at number one in the U.S.

But BBDO came in first in the U.S. creative new business league for snagging the AARP agency of record account from Grey in September. 

Other agencies have seen significant growth in the last month alone. From a global perspective, Dentsu’s Isobar is the biggest mover, jumping from 9th to 2nd place after winning 243 pieces of new business in September, demonstrating success in taking on shorter term project-based work. 

Yet once again, VMLY&R held on to the top spot globally, with 122 new wins in September including Adidas in China and Tesco in Malaysia.

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