12% year on year uplift for new business in H1 2021

01 Jul 2021

Agency appointments are up by 12% in the first six months of 2021 compared to the corresponding period last year, according to AAR’s proprietary account moves tracking database.

While there was a general uplift across the marketplace, the media discipline represented the most significant increase with a staggering 37% more reviews completed in H1 2021 compared to 2020.

AAR’s Managing Director, Paul Phillips, puts the sharp uptick in media reviews down to four main drivers: Pent up demand following a year of relative inactivity; the US election result offering confidence on the street and in the City; a smoother Brexit than many predicted and the success of the vaccine roll-out shining economic light at the end of the tunnel.

Victoria Fox, CEO at AAR observes “This is certainly a hectic time for media agencies. So much so that they’re turning down briefs and pitch opportunities as there just isn’t the bandwidth to deliver well. Last year was tactical, and now brands are looking up and thinking more long-term again.”

For creative agencies, there has also been an uplift in activity (up 14% year on year) and, perhaps even more positively, a large increase (400%) in the number of brand owners with significant media budgets (i.e. £20 million plus in UK) changing agencies between January and June 2021 versus the same period in 2020. In the first six months of last year, only two such clients moved agency. 2021 has seen eight such appointments already, namely ASDA, Betfair, DfT, DFS, JustEat, MoneySupermarket, TfL and Virgin Atlantic/Holidays.

Reviews within the digital space remained constant year on year, with the majority of new appointments in the area of transformation, rather than comms, due to changing customer behaviours resulting from the pandemic.

Fox further commented: “At this stage, it is clearly difficult to make firm year on year comparisons as the first three months of 2020 were pre-lockdown. We’ll need to wait until Q1 2022 before we can really evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on the new business market. However, these latest figures will hopefully give agencies comfort that the market is buoyant and is showing signs this is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

“While lockdown put the handbrake on the new business market for many brand owners, it also represented an opportunity for them to re-examine the design and performance of their marketing eco-systems and, in some cases, demonstrated the need for external agency resource where none had previously existed.

“All things considered we’re cautiously confident that, by the close of 2021, we’ll see a return to pre COVID-19 levels of agency appointments across all disciplines and all sizes of budget.”

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Martin Jones

Counsel to AAR

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