Wieden + Kennedy Leads COMvergence’s 2019 U.S. Creative New Business Barometer

Independent agencies won 41% of the U.S. creative accounts up for review in 2019

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Ten agencies won around half of all media spend up for review in 2019. Getty Images

Data consultancy COMvergence has released its 2019 U.S. Creative New Business Barometer, showing last year was a strong one for independent creative agencies.

Of the 155 newly appointed or retained creative assignments across 130 advertisers in the U.S. counted by COMvergence, 41% went to 32 different independent agencies. Over one-third of the $7 billion in media spending in these reviews was represented by just seven marketers shelling out over $200 million each: Facebook, JCPenney, McDonald’s, Sonic Drive-In, State Farm, Target and Walgreens.

Ten agencies won around half of all media spend up for review in 2019. Adweek U.S. Agency of the Year Wieden + Kennedy topped the list for new business winnings in 2019 reviews at $930 million for five different wins, including McDonald’s naming W+K New York as its lead creative agency in September. Another independent, Mother, also brought in five wins for a total of $710 million, including fast-food chain Sonic Drive-In last August.

Omnicom’s DDB was third, with six wins for $520 million (although the agency also suffered a number of significant losses). IPG’s MullenLowe had the most wins of the top 10 agencies at eight, bringing in $330 million. Rounding out the list are IPG’s The Martin Agency and McCann, Omnicom agencies BBDO and Zimmerman, Cheil Worldwide agency McKinney and MDC Partners agency Doner.

Two shifting categories, restaurants and retail, were the largest spending categories for new business in 2019, at $1.3 billion and $1.2 billion across nine reviews, respectively. The financial and insurance fields spent some $770 million and underwent a dozen reviews in 2019.

Food and soft drink brands saw even more reviews, with 17 accounting for $470 million in media spending. Alcohol brands also went through a dozen reviews last year, accounting for around $530 million in media spending.

Eight agencies lost about one third of the total media spending reviewed in 2019. DDB only had one loss in the U.S. for 2019 as tracked by COMvergence, but it accounted for $500 million in media spending, which saw the agency top the list. IPG agency Deutsch was close behind, with three losses representing $480 million in spending. BBDO had the most losses of the eight agencies, with five accounts representing $290 million in spending.

Independent agencies were certainly not immune to losing large accounts, as evidenced by JCPenney splitting with Badger & Winters, which accounted for around $250 million in media spending. Barton F. Graf suffered three losses representing $200 million in media spending, which resulted in the agency closing its doors at the end of the year.

Two holding companies represented about 40% of the 155 U.S. creative assignments assessed by COMvergence: IPG (35 wins) and Omnicom (30 wins). MDC Partners followed with 10 wins.

“By placing third, this is the first time MDC has landed so high in our rankings. As a result, you could argue that domestically, they are a legitimate ‘threat’ to the Big Six mar-com holding companies,” said COMvergence founder and CEO Olivier Gauthier. “It’s also the first time two independent agencies, Wieden + Kennedy and Mother, ranked first and second since we began publishing our benchmarking reports.”

@ErikDOster erik.oster@adweek.com Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.