As this issue of IQ goes to press, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Pricewaterhouse Coopers have just reported preliminary figures showing that marketers spent $2.2 billion in online advertising during fourth quarter 2003. Such a mark would beat even the best quarter the industry saw before that legendary bubble went "pop"!
That strength is certainly reflected in our annual ranking of the Top 50 interactive agencies. In total, interactive revenue among the Top 50 grew by more than 14 percent year over year. The re-emergence of the market is also reflected in the selection of IQ's two Agencies of the Year for 2003. (For the second year in a row, we chose to honor one independent agency and one holding company-owned shop.) In independent Digitas, we found a company that came back from the dot-com bust to win over clients old and new with its laserlike focus on accountable marketing. Interpublic Group-owned R/GA, a shop whose creative product has long been the envy of its competitors, has turned that advantage into the stature of being IPG's leading interactive resource. The two winners, and others who were considered for the Agency of the Year trophy, stood in contrast to contenders of the last few years, when agencies that did well were in such short supply that choosing an Agency of the Year was (slightly) easier. This year, flusher times meant many strong candidates.
With the good times once again rolling, sometimes it seems that interactive is experiencing a flashback. There's a big difference this time, though. Now, most of the money is coming from traditional advertisers rather than fly-by-night dot-coms. To interactive ad execs, how sweet that must be. —Catharine P. Taylor