Agency Profitwatch 2010


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Deltek study on profitability of marketing communication agencies, based upon a 2010 Survey

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Agency Profitwatch 2010

  1. 1. Agency Profitwatch 2010ReseaRch RepoRt
  2. 2. ContentsView from the Top . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3Executive Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6Systems and Profitability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8The Agency Holding Pattern . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9Agency Systems and Processes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11Areas of Weakness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12Systems and Profitability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13The Agency Holding Pattern . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16Agency Systems and Processes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18Areas of Weakness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22In Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
  3. 3. View from the Top After massive investments in “Five years is a long time in the dynamic world of marketing and communications. In fact, the past five years have arguably been the most transformative of the past 30. Whilst the arrival digital in the recent past ... our of the dot com era signalled a change in technology before the new millennium, it is only in aim is eventually to derive a total recent years that internet technology has become ubiquitous – all ages, anytime, anywhere. Coupled with the boom in social media, the marketing industry has been, and is still largely, in of 60% of our revenue from the the process of reinventing itself. two sectors of digital activities and emerging economies. However, what makes this technological transition unique is the economic backdrop that accompanies the new wave of commercial and consumer behaviour. The enduring recession (Publicis 2010) experienced across the majority of western economies since early 2008 has given a new meaning to the term ‘more for less’. Budgets have been cut, growth has been elusive and agencies have been tested to the limit. Maconomy conducted a ‘Profit Watch’ piece of research in 2005 that has been repeated in 2010. We are pleased to share the findings with you and to encourage debate about how agencies have been and should be responding to today’s unique set of commercial pressures.3 V ie w from the top
  4. 4. WPP Digital exists to accelerate In 2005 many large marketing and communications businesses were struggling to implement systems that captured billing and resource information. The ability to link these systems WPP’s development of world- and integrate them with finance was even further from the ‘norm’. Whilst these issues still class capabilities in digital endure in 2010, they are beginning to improve. Generally speaking, agencies in 2010 are more accountable and rely upon a more sophisticated ‘backbone’ than was the case previously. marketing and media. (WPP 2010) The challenges for 2010, as agencies endeavour to ‘digitise’ service offerings, are still grounded in the hunt for profitability. However, the need for business intelligence to ensure In order to grow with our an effective response to dramatic operational changes is central to future financial success. clients, we have therefore Marketers like to speak of ‘tipping points’ for client organisations. It appears that the industry accelerated our investment now has a tipping point of its own. Responding appropriately to the period of transition that 2010 represents will pay dividends. Most innovators in the sector have a view of future in digital talent, professional [digital] strategy, but turning this into workable services requires internal transparency, re- training and technology organisation and insight. ‘Vision’ may describe the future, but only operational aptitude will throughout the organization make this vision a reality.” in recent years. Hugo Dorph (Interpublic 2010) EVP & General Manager, Deltek | Maconomy4 V ie w from the top
  5. 5. During the next fewyears, we expect to seean accelerating focuson digital media tocommunicate brandmessages(Omnicom 2010)
  6. 6. Executive SummaryKey stats The marketing and media industries are in a period of rapid transformation in the wake of a recession which has accelerated the movement of digital media into the centre of the communications landscape. The 2010 Agency Profitwatch report seeks to examine whether agency systems and processes are agile enough to help agencies thrive amidst this change. The following report examines how agency decision-makers across a range of marketing 60% agree disciplines collect and use agency time and resources. In particular, it seeks to understand how the systems they use contribute to agency profitability and whether agencies are able to that improving use data about costs and assets to their best advantage. corporate accounting processes would increase The findings indicate that many agencies are collecting enough information for successful company profits day-to-day operations, but only a dynamic minority have truly integrated record-keeping. Most agencies have per-project budgeting and cost control processes in place, but many still have resource blind spots, such as new business generation and over-servicing time. The most expensive and valuable resource agencies use – their people’s time – is not always caught by systems or connected to data about margins and profits.6 execu tiV e Summ a ry
  7. 7. Key stats In general, agency processes have evolved in the last five years, but most recognise that they still have systems and processes that could be improved. The pressures of the recent recession appear to have locked some agencies in something of a ‘holding pattern’, keeping them from making further improvements to processes and structures. only 11% report that they Without a good way to monitor and evaluate their current situations, some agencies may not have re-distributed be as agile as they need to be in order to react quickly to the seismic shifts in the marketing permanent staff landscape which are now under way. through hiring or redundancies only 12% report that they have re-distributed temporary staff through hiring or redundancies Massive changes to the media environment aren’t being matched by organisational change within many agencies7 execu tiV e Summ a ry
  8. 8. Systems and Profitability The systems agencies currently have in place are not always helping them realise their profit potential, or enabling companies to recognise information or efficiency gaps. Indeed, 60% agree that improving corporate accounting processes would increase company profits. 59% agree It appears that external-facing systems such as invoicing meet with greater satisfaction that lack of time than internal-facing systems that measure non-billable hours and other difficult-to-capture accountability by resources. 59% of respondents agree that lack of time accountability by creative teams has a creative teams has a negative impact on company profits, but only 9% report that their invoices are often queried negative impact on or rejected due to error, for example. company profits8 SyStemS a nD profita bilit y
  9. 9. The Agency Holding Pattern Unsurprisingly, the recession has negatively affected profits at 45% of respondent companies. An additional 30% have held steady, with no change in profits – only 11% report increases in profits during the recession. The majority of respondents are focusing their efforts on cost-cutting, with only 37% agreeing that revenue generation is a higher priority than managing costs. While some agencies are maintaining an employment status quo, 43% report redundancies of permanent staff. The basic shape of agencies has not changed, however – the changes one might expect in the wake of technological and social developments have not yet occurred. 45% of Most agencies are not using staffing changes to review how skills are used, with only 11% agencies reporting that changes in permanent staffing (positive or negative) have re-distributed responsibilities at the agency. Only 12% say the same about temporary staffing changes. have seen their On the whole, agencies appear to be slimming down, but not necessarily becoming more agile. profits decline during the recession9 the agency holDing pat ter n
  10. 10. This is taking place against the backdrop of major changes in the media environment with which agencies engage – some agencies are holding still in the face of widespread change, while others are rising to meet the challenge.Research methodology Fig. 1: sector breakdown of respondents200 telephone interviews wereconducted in May and early June 2010,with agency professionals at director US UK Totallevel or above across a range ofmarketing disciplines, based in the UK 29%(100) and the US (100) . Advertising 38% 34%Respondents were screened for strategic 23%and budget responsibilities, and those PR 22%working for companies with fewer 23%than 50 were excluded . The survey was 23%conducted by Loudhouse Research, an Integrated Marketing 16%independent consultancy headquartered 20%in the UK . 11% Web/Internet 5%This survey follows a similar effort in 8%2005, when a telephone survey reached 7%223 respondents at agencies with over Design 8%30 employees, 100 in the UK and 123 in 8%the US . 5% Direct Mail 6% 6% 2% Market research 5% 4% Which of the f ollowing industries does your company work in? Base: 200 100 (UK) 100 (US)10 the agency holDing pat ter n
  11. 11. Agency Systems and Processes Fig. 2: sample breakdown for Us and UK Almost three quarters of respondents (72%) say their agencies budget in advance for each job they undertake, and 77% say they have ongoing cost control in place for each job. Information Company size: UK Company turnover: UK is often going to waste, however. Only 53% of agencies have a cost accounting system that Fewer than 50 Refused/DK can link job codes to the general ledger, and only 47% have a system that can perform time 0% 1% and expense analysis prior to project completion. Only 39% have an automated system toMore than 250 £10 million £0 - £999,999 31% and above 17% manage employee personal expenses, suggesting that basic and easily captured information 27% is often being missed. £1 million Timesheet systems are still not achieving enough coverage to help agencies manage resources - £4,999,999 £5 million - 31% well. Only 1 in 3 respondents has over 90% coverage of employees’ time, and 1 in 6 (16%) 50-250 £9,999,999 69% 24% of respondents say their agency has no automated timesheet system at all. Encouragingly, respondents are aware that their systems need improvement - asked to estimate what capacities they will need three years into the future, respondents generally voice a need for Company size: US Company turnover: US much more sophisticated systems. Fewer than 50 Refused/DK 0% 5% £0 - £999,999 £10 million 8%More than 250 and above 20% 21% £1 million - £4,999,999 £5 million - 45% 50-250 £9,999,999 80% 21% Could you please tell me how many employees are there within your company? What is your company turnover? Base: 100 (US) 100 ( 11 agency SyStemS a nD proceSSeS
  12. 12. Areas of Weakness The systems agencies employ have several areas of weakness. The new business process takes a tremendous amount of agency time – respondents estimate a rough average of 18% of their time, with 36% spending one day per business week (20% of time) or more. Despite this, reporting of new business time is patchy. Only 45% of respondents report that their timesheet systems can capture non billable hours, and only 55% agree that their new business processes are well managed and organised. 29% of those who have an automated timesheet system report that these do not capture time spent on new business at all. Budgeting and cost control responsibilities are very widely distributed at respondents’ agencies, with the creative teams on jobs actively involved in budgeting at 42% of respondents’ 13% agencies, and in ongoing cost control at 36%. Over-servicing also remains an issue for most over-servicing agencies (although less pronounced than five years ago), with agencies reporting an estimated on average was reported by average of 13% over-servicing and only 19% claiming to have eliminated over-servicing the surveyed agencies completely. This figure – 19% – is likely to be high, as agencies in the current economic climate have fewer active clients making the urgent demands that drive over-servicing. Improvement is clearly needed, with agencies aspiring to 3% over-servicing on average.12 a r e a S of w e a kneSS
  13. 13. Systems and Profitability Although general satisfaction with accounting systems has increased since the 2005 study, it has not risen at the same pace as technological processes have improved. A truly agile system would allow for a comprehensive real-time view of resource use. Many 60% agree agencies report that their current systems are not able to provide this view in one or more aspects of their businesses. 60% of respondents agree that improving corporate accounting that improving accounting processes would increase company profits, as opposed to 63% agreeing with this statement processes would increase in 2005 (Figure 3). company profits Fig. 3: accountancy system satisfaction Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree Refused 13% 50% 26% 7% 2% 2% 2005: Improving corporate accounting processes would increase company profits 24% 36% 26% 9% 5% 2% 2010: Improving corporate accounting processes would2010: I am now going to read out a list of statements. Could you please tell me increase company profitsif you strongly agree, agree, are neutral, disagree or strongly disagree with thefollowing? Base: 2002005: To what extent do you agree with the statement “Improving corporateaccounting processes would increase company profits”? Base:223 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%13 SyStemS a nD profita bilit y
  14. 14. Fig. 4: Us and UK systems and processes The external-facing systems agencies run seem to function extremely well, while some areas of internal monitoring remain challenging for many agencies. Only 9% of respondents agree that their invoices are often queried because information is confusing or erroneous, and justPercentage that agree or strongly agree 12% agree that they spend excessive time correcting invoicing errors. 250+ employees 50-250 employees Total Company size seems to play a role in how companies’ systems work toward profitability 49%Revenue generation is a higher 32% – larger firms are considerably more likely to see accounting systems as an area forpriority than managing costs 37% improvement (72% of firms with more than 250 employees agree that improving accountingOur new businesses process is 55% systems would boost profits, as opposed to 55% of smaller firms.) Larger firms are, however, 57%well managed and organised 57% more likely than their smaller counterparts to focus on revenues over profits.Improving corporate accoun- 72%ting processes would increase 55% In general, respondents acknowledge that their agencies’ systems have blind spots. 59%company profits 60% agree that lack of accountability by creative teams impacts company profitability. Just overLack of time accountability 59%by creative teams impacts 60% half (55%) agree that their new business process is well managed and organised (Figure 4).company profitability 59% New business takes up a considerable amount of agency time, and there is clearly room for improvement in accounting for this time. New business and creative work often involve non-billable hours. In many agencies, it seems that the internal systems that manage companies’ most valuable resource – employee time – are not equipped to record key activities or to link the information they store to data on profit and loss.I am now going to read out a list of statements. Could you please tell meif you strongly agree, agree, are neutral, disagree or strongly disagree with thefollowing? Base: 200 149 (50-250 employees), 51 (250+)14 SyStemS a nD profita bilit y
  15. 15. The Agency Holding PatternFig. 5: profits in the downturn While 30% of respondents report no change in their profits at all during the downturn, 45% report a decline (Figure 5). Regional differences emerge in the recession’s effects on profits, How has the recent Do you currently have a with 57% of UK respondents reporting a decline in profits, as opposed to 32% in the US. economic recession project or task force established affected your to improve profitability 14% of UK agencies have increased their profits, while only 7% in the US report they have agency’s profits? within your agency? done so. Most strikingly, US agencies are much more likely to report a steady state, with 42% Don’t Know reporting no change in profits, as opposed to 17% in the UK. 16% No change Yes 30% 48%Profits have In 2005, at the height of the boom, 41% of respondents claimed that generating revenue was gone up 11% more important than managing costs. In 2010, this figure stands at 37%, higher than might be expected, as green shoots begin to emerge. Profitability is very much front of mind in the Profits have agency psyche, but only about half (48%) of respondents report that their agencies have a gone down No 45% 52% task force or project examining profitability.How has the recent economic recession affected your agency’s profits? Do youcurrently have a project or task force established to improve prof itability withinyour agency? Base: 20015 the agency holDing pat ter n
  16. 16. Fig. 6: changes in permanent staffing The general sense that agencies are somewhat ‘hunkered down’ is reinforced by hiring patterns during the recession (Figure 6). As would be expected from the profitability patterns, onlyHow has the recent economic recession affected your agency’s a minority of agencies report having hired new permanent staff or retained new temporarynumber of permanent staff? staff during the recession (a total of 10% and 8%, respectively). There are also substantial 8% No change numbers reporting declines. 28% of respondents report a decline in temporary/contract 42% We have hired more people, but the general workers, while 43% have let permanent staff go. 8% composition of the agency has stayed the same (even hiring of permanent staff across teams) We have hired more people, and changed the Whilst staffing changes represent a useful and timely opportunity for agencies to update composition of the agency (adding to or creating permanent roles on some teams, reducing or their processes in light of major changes in the market, only a minority of agencies have done eliminating permanent roles in others) so. Only 11% report using permanent staffing changes (hiring or redundancies) as a part of a We have let staff go, but the general composition of the agency has stayed the same (even reductions change in agency structure, and only 12% doing the same with changes to contract staffing. in permanent staff across teams) The situation in the US is more stagnant than in the UK, with only 3% using permanent staff 35% We have let staff go, and changed the composition 7% of the agency (adding to or creating permanent roles changes to affect a restructure and only 9% doing the same with temporary staff changes. 3% on some teams,reducing or eliminating permanent roles in others) In the UK, the corresponding numbers are 17% and 15%, respectively, suggesting somewhat Don’t Know greater dynamism in UK agency structures.How has the recent economic recession affected your agency’s number ofpermanent staff? Base: 20016 the agency holDing pat ter n
  17. 17. Agency Systems and Processes Some of agencies’ reluctance to change may be explained by their systems – not all agencies have enough resource visibility to reallocate resources quickly. While most respondents report that their agencies have functioning systems for budgeting and cost control, many either lack some core capacities or don’t have all the processes in place to link the information they collect in useful ways. 2/3 of agencies can improve the Good advance-budgeting and real-time cost control processes are in place at a majority of percentage of agency time agencies. 72% of respondents report budgeting in advance for each job, and 77% say they with a comprehensive perform ongoing cost control while each job is in progress. timesheet system The majority of respondents have an automated timesheet system (only 16% lack one), although only a third has truly comprehensive coverage (91-100% of time covered on the system). This means that two thirds of agencies could improve the percentage of agency time captured in their systems, and potentially see real benefits in agility and control.17 agency SyStemS a nD proceSSeS
  18. 18. When asked what basic functions their systems can perform, a surprising number of respondents lack core capacities (Figure 7). Only 39% report that their systems can send reminders to those who fail to complete timesheets, and only 48% of systems can automatically inform them when timesheets are due or late. Less than half (45%) of respondents report that their timesheet systems can capture non-billable hours (new business activities, pitch preparation, meetings and administrative time) at all. A significant number of agencies are losing data at the entry point, because they don’t have reliable information about what has and has not been recorded and by whom. Fig. 7: current capacities and future needs Future needs Current abilities Run time analysis reports 66% 55% Automatically inform you when 65% timesheets are due or late 48% Capture non billable hours 60% 45% Send reminders to individuals to 52% complete timesheets 39% Block out timesheet entries until 52% budget approval has been given 38% None of these capacities 9% 15% Integrate resource plan with revenue 42% forecast (future only) Provide overview of resource availability 53% and skills (future only)Regarding your timesheet system, does it have the capabilityto do the following? Base: 168What capacities do you imagine your timesheet / projectmanagement system will need to have to help you meet yourneeds three years from now? Base: 20018 agency SyStemS a nD proceSSeS
  19. 19. In addition, linkages between systems could be further improved at many agencies (Figure 8). Only just over half (53%) of respondents have cost accounting systems in place that link job codes to the general ledger, and only 47% can perform time and expense analysis in real time, prior to project completion. As such, the information collected in budgeting and cost- management processes is not always being connected to the systems that measure profits and losses. Fig. 8: capacities of linked systems US UK Total only 47% of Cost accounting systems 48% agencies (linking job codes to general ledger) 57% 53% can perform time Time and expenses analysis in real time 44% – prior to project completion 50% and expense analysis 47% in real-time prior to An automated system to manage 30% project completion personal employee expenses 39% 47% None of the above 16% 11% 14% Dont Know 12% 5% 9%Which of the following systems/processes does yourorganisation employ? Base: 200 100(UK) 100(US)19 SyStemS a nD profita bilit y
  20. 20. Areas of Weakness The number of agencies with pre-project budgeting and ongoing project cost-control processes is encouraging. The involvement of a very wide range of agency personnel, as shown in Figure 9, is undoubtedly a positive example of connectedness across the business. Where creative teams are actively involved in setting project budgets (42%) and managing costs on an ongoing basis during jobs (36%), however, there are potential issues given the lack of accounting for creatives’ time and resources already reported. Indeed, 59% of respondents consider that lack of time accountability by creatives impacts company profitability. Another system ‘blind spot’ is the new business process. Only 57% of respondents agree that their new business process is well managed and organised, despite spending an average of 59% agree 18% of their time on new business – just under one working day of agency time each week. A that the lack of time core 36% of respondents spend over 20% or more of agency time on new business, making accountability by this a crucial area for systems to monitor. 29% of respondents who have timesheet systems creatives impacts report that new business time is not recorded in their systems at all. Those who do record new company profitability business time do not always do so as transparently as they could - designations that specify ‘new businesses (such as ‘new business research’)’ are used only by 45-52% of agencies.20 a r e a S of w e a kneSS
  21. 21. Fig. 9: Involvement in pre-project budgeting US UK Total Senior agency management 61% 64% 63% The finance or accounting team 49% for the agency 59% 53% The most senior person on 48% the project team 56% 51% The planner or planning team 53% on the job 34% 45% The client service staff 40% involved in the job 48% 43% The creative team working 52% on the job 30% 42% Others 4% 0% 2% Dont Know 1% 0% 1%For each new job you begin, which of the followingstaff members are involved in setting the initialbudget for the job? Base: 144 , 61(UK) 83 (US)21 a r e a S of w e a kneSS
  22. 22. Fig. 10: over-servicing Over-servicing remains an issue, with agencies over-servicing their clients by 13% on average (Figure 10). Only 19% of agencies claim to be free of over-servicing challenges. There has Mean: 13% been progress in this area - 55% of 2010 respondents report 10% over-servicing or less, while only 23% had achieved this level of efficiency in 2005. In 2005, 24% of respondents Don’t Know 50% + 7% reported more than 20% over-servicing (theoretically, one wasted day per week). In 2010, We do not overservice 41-50% 3% our clients at all this figure is 23%, essentially no change. 19% 7% 31-40% 6% Eliminating over-servicing remains a goal for a majority of respondents, with 52% hoping to eliminate it completely, and 32% hoping to get to 5% over-servicing or less.21-30% 11% >5% 18% Clearly, agencies want to capitalise on their increasing efficiency, and reap the benefits of further improvements. 11-20% 15% 6-10% 19%By what percentage, if at all, would you estimate thatyou ‘over-service’ your clients? Base: 20022 a r e a S of w e a kneSS
  23. 23. Conclusion Agencies have faced two challenges since the start of the recent economic downturn – the economy has had negative effects on their own profits and has accelerated developments elsewhere in the economy that are rapidly and fundamentally changing the way they must work. Marketers in this environment need the agility to re-allocate resources – from old to new media, from siloed to integrated organisations, from traditional schedules to flexible ones – quickly when they recognise a need to do so. The most dynamic agencies are equipped with enough real-time information to spot and change wasteful patterns before they hurt profits or to allocate resources to new projects. Most agencies are making progress toward this goal, but they still have improvements to make before they achieve it. The potentially dramatic changes brought about by social and broader digital media needs are a notable factor in creating urgency in improving management intelligence of agency resources. Agencies recognise this challenge and the need to improve their systems in response but vary in the progress already made and the readiness to mature their processes further. Over the next few years, we can expect that the environment around marketing agencies will continue to evolve, as traditional media weakens and non-traditional channels make up a larger part of the media landscape and agency revenues. Agencies with the information to distribute resources efficiently and re-allocate them quickly will be best equipped to innovate in this environment. Companies need to pursue an improvement to business information, to ensure that systems, people and processes are align to provide the agility needed for future agency success.23 concluSion
  24. 24. About LoudHouse ResearchLoudhouse is an independent marketing research consultancy based in London with particular expertisein helping brands better engage with their audiences. Loudhouse works with companies of all shapesand sizes to deliver insight into what makes their customers tick and helps companies use this insight tobetter communicate with their markets. Loudhouse works across a range of sectors and has particularexpertise in business services, technology and people issues.For more information on Loudhouse, please visit Research33 Glasshouse StreetLondonW1B 5DG0845 5057770About our SponsorDeltek (Nasdaq: PROJ) acquired Maconomy in July 2010 to create the leading global provider ofenterprise applications software and solutions designed specifically for project-focused businesses.The combined company has unmatched domain expertise in the professional services market with closeto 13,000 customers worldwide. The new organisation has immense geographic reach across the worldand serves all major segments within the professional services vertical market, including architecture& engineering, advertising, public relations, accounting, management and IT consulting, and legal. Thecombined organisation has a prominent market position and has an unmatched list of project-basedcustomers, including:• 80% of the Engineering News Record Top 500 Design Firms• Approximately 80% of the 2009 ZweigWhite Top 200 fastest-growing architecture, engineering and environmental consulting firms• Four of the five largest Global Accounting and Consulting firms• The world’s three largest Marketing Communications Networks• Approximately 90% of the Top U.S. Federal ContractorsFor more information, please visit or