Agency Report Cards

NEW YORK Each year, our key objective with this special report is to provide a fair and accurate appraisal of the agencies featured.

Click here to read the report cards.

Our research process is tedious and time consuming. We pore over spreadsheets, compile extensive lists of account wins and losses, watch hours of TV commercials and (beginning in the last few years) Webisodes, flip through hundreds of print ads and carry on scores of conversations with agency executives. All in an effort to gain the necessary context and insight to give readers a legitimate lay of the land.

I’d like to believe we are successful in providing a thoughtful and balanced report. We suspect not all of you will agree. Here’s a brief rundown of our process. Each card is focused on the U.S. performance of a particular agency, with regional highlights (from local offices) included for national agencies and global highlights included for multinationals. Since we grade on a curve, we begin by establishing an average revenue gain for the group. The average gain for all agencies evaluated in 2006 was 7.5 percent, which, interestingly enough, is exactly the same percentage as in 2005. (In 2004, the average was 7.7 percent, down from 2003’s 8.6 percent.) To get a Numbers grade for a particular agency, we first look at how its revenue gain compares with that of the group, then consider other factors, such as revenue-to-staff ratio and growth from existing clients. Given that we are looking at quite a range of shops—the smallest in our national rankings has a revenue base of $33 million, the largest $688 million—we also consider agency size when evaluating growth.

In determining Creative grades, like most award shows, we judge the work based on creativity, originality, positioning and strategy. We do not gauge effectiveness. We continue to review nontraditional and integrated campaigns, an addition to the process in the last two years. Generally speaking, the Management grade reflects some combination of the other two grades. (See the sidebar for more details on the methodology.)

You may notice that this year we are evaluating six agencies that we are calling Super Regionals. These are not quite the biggest players, but they are not small local agencies either. We selected the most active or noteworthy shop from each of Adweek‘s traditional regions: East, West, Midwest, New England, Southeast and Southwest. You may also notice that two agencies, Carmichael Lynch and Zimmerman, moved into the national rankings for the first time.

As usual, we welcome your comments and even your criticisms.

—Alison Fahey