What's on brands' new-business agenda for 2020?

Observations from Campaign's 2019 full-year new-business rankings.

Reading Campaign’s 2019 agency new-business rankings raised a cheer. 2019 was a tough year all round and new business was hard won. So heartfelt congratulations to every agency on the list.

In a year when business was tough to come by, what does Campaign’s table tell us?

At a glance, big remained beautiful – with the top three ad agency spots going to Adam & Eve/DDB [which won accounts including Sony PlayStation, pictured], Saatchi & Saatchi and Bartle Bogle Hegarty, and the top two in media Havas and Zenith. But the big agencies need to keep on their toes as new-wave agencies snap at their heels, disrupting the traditional model with agility and expertise in modern marketing disciplines. Essence, Above & Beyond, Atomic, The Corner, Isobel et al feature high in the rankings.

Congratulations, too, to agencies that cemented client relationships in 2019

Campaign’s rankings saw top 10 agency net billings broadly consistent with 2018, but across fewer pitches. Incumbents kept up with the pace of change as their client briefs stretched – no small feat and testament to the power of strong agency/client partnerships.

What did we at Oystercatchers experience in 2019? On pitches, clients increasingly looking to innovate for growth – such as challenger Starling Bank, leading change in the world of finance (and which was successfully landed by Wonderhood Studios). Clients looking to strengthen their brand, such as Macmillan Cancer Support and Moonpig. We noticed, too, a surge in briefs to review agency models, explore new ways of working and create greater efficiencies. Probably the most-asked question for 2019 was: am I spending my budgets as wisely as I can?

What’s on the client agenda for 2020?

Based on conversations with brand owners, and as a former chief marketing officer myself, I see four areas of focus:

  1. Increased rigour around marketing strategy and how it drives performance, helping CMOs put marketing at the heart of the wider business conversation.
  2. Developing agile teams with capabilities and ways of working to ensure world-class delivery and keep pace with their customers.
  3. A relentless focus on customer relationships and experience at the heart of marketing strategy. As Keith Weed neatly put it: "Without trust, a brand is just a product and its advertising is just noise." Brands have to deliver on their promise to earn their customers' trust.
  4. But with pressures on efficiency and the opportunities of data and tech, it’s heartening to note another rising trend – a renewed search for the breakthrough brand idea. Brands are regaining their confidence in creativity as a differentiator as the sophistication and automation of performance marketing becomes a level playing field.

And this is where agencies can really add value. As business picks up the pace after the political and economic turbulence of the past few years, the time is right for agencies – large or small, new or established – to bring some magic to the party.

So, get match fit for 2020 – it’s set to be an exhilarating ride.

Jude Bridge is managing partner at Oystercatchers

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