Executive Summary – Yearly Recap

Welcome… As you spent hours locked up in an improvised home office, did you feel overwhelmed by the cacophony of industry news, yet still felt underinformed? You were not alone. We created these quick bite-sized highlights of what’s going on in our world so friends, colleagues, and clients wouldn’t have to spend countless hours sorting through hundreds of announcements. We know how little time is available and yet how essential it is to keep up with a fast-moving industry. This is a summary of all of the industry updates of 2021.  Get a cup of coffee and find a comfortable place to read and enjoy.

Major 2021 themes

Looking back at the full year to make sense of the profound changes impacting our industry can be intimidating. It sure is to me, and, as many of you, I live and breathe this daily. So many announcements, press releases, industry reports add to the noise and lack real insight. For that, we need to read between the lines and see what direction the industry is taking. The year prior, ANA’s Marketing Word of the Year was “pivot.” It still seemed relevant in 2021. But what was unique about 2021? What were the major drivers that made a significant difference in how we approach advertising or collaborate with each other, no matter if you are on the agency, client or supplier side? Well, I am glad you asked. Here it is:

  • E-commerce and digital growth permanently altered the agency landscape: The health crisis accelerated the need for companies to transform themselves and deepen their e-commerce offering, shaping a new way to communicate with customers. Naturally, digital media grew significantly in 2021, profiting big tech players like Meta, Google and Facebook, and encouraged agencies to build new capabilities in media, e-commerce, salesforce integration, gaming, data analytics, AI and machine learning to keep up with demand. 2021 noteworthy examples you will find in this recap: WPP announced that it employs 13,500 commerce services experts across the world; AI-powered search intelligence company Adthena acquired Kantar’s paid-search business; agencies like IPG’s Reprise started hiring Chief AI Officers; indie agency Omelet launched a gaming marketing consultancy called Cheat Code; You and Mr. Jones launched a new e-commerce services unit; and more….
  • Agencies explored new creative, innovative ways to service clients: The traditional ways of going to market or producing advertising are obsolete, especially in data with new privacy standards enforced by Google and Apple. Agility, speed to market, creative and media integration, data insight, and specialty skills are essential ingredients for agencies looking to break new ground and win market share. 2021 noteworthy examples you will find in this recap: WPP’s Ogilvy produced seven films in seven days in a creative sprint for Instagram; DDB and clients Coors Light and Coors Seltzer created a campaign designed to put a beer commercial in our dreams; Edelman launched Disinformation Shield; WPP launched a global data company called Choreograph and Cloud Studio for virtual production; Accenture invested $75M+ to develop SynOps; The Integer Group launched its Growth Sciences Practice; Havas launched its Havas Sovereign Technologies unit; and more….
  •  Commitment to diversity and inclusion (finally) became a reality: The concept of diversity and inclusion is not new, but 2021 was a year of commitment. The noticeable difference was the level of engagement exhibited by the entire supply chain – agencies and brands – taking prescriptive steps to make diversity more than a worthy cause: an organizational reality. Most agencies hired a Chief Inclusion Officer and launched training, mentoring and sponsorship programs. 2021 noteworthy examples you will find in this recap: 4A’s launched The Workplace Enlightenment Certification (WeC) program; Deloitte Digital launched a new practice, Ethos, to address global issues like diversity; Unilever pledged to increase spend with underrepresented companies; MullenLowe US launched The Black Catalog; P&G launched an initiative ’Widen the Screen’; ANA’s Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) published the Anti-Asian Hate toolkit and released an update to their list of diverse suppliers; General Motors Co. pledged to increase its spend with Black-owned media companies; Verizon committed at least 2% of its ad budget; and IPG Mediabrands committed to invest at least 5% in Black-owned media; and more….
  • Remote pitching facilitated a renewed level of competitive agency reviews: As the world learned to cope with remote environments and home offices, the need to reevaluate relationships and make transformational changes prompted clients and agencies to embrace remote pitching, relying more on technology and less on chemistry-based, in-person conversations. It didn’t deter many advertisers from making significant roster changes and signing up new agencies of record (AOR). In media alone, there were 1,940 account moves and retentions across 46 countries totaling $13.2B in billings in the first half of the year, a 27% increase year-over-year. Check out our consolidated list of agency reviews to see what brands changed agencies or consolidated work. 
  • Large holding companies bounced back (financially): After a terrifying year of severe cost reductions in light of the health crisis, agencies had to make significant adjustments to their operations, reducing expenses wherever possible, including cutting staff and letting go of expensive offices. These measures paid off. Combined with economic growth and the redeployment of brand budgets, holding companies experienced significant double-digit organic growth in 2021, getting back to healthier financial grounds. Check out the Financial Section for earning report summaries and more information.
  • David vs. Goliath epic battle grew in intensity: The rebirth of Sir Martin Sorrell (post-WPP) and the rise of its digital-only holding firm, S4 Capital, was supported by a wide number of acquisitions and a record-level growth, presenting a reasonable long-term threat to the more established, publicly traded holding companies like WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, Interpublic Group, Dentsu, Havas, etc. S4 Capital reached a market cap of £5B and acquired Code and Theory, Decoded Advertising, Metric Theory, Destined, Low Earth Orbit (L.E.O.), Tomorrow and many others. Stagwell, following its merger with MDC Partners, also created a worthy competitor to larger networks, with worldwide revenue of $2.1B and nearly 10,000 employees. Check out the Financial and M&A Section for more details.
  • In-house agency phenomenon accelerated and matured: The rise of in-house agencies started years ago. In 2021, it became clear that there was still much interest in building such capabilities, especially in programmatic media. The most poignant observation was the level of maturity reached by these organizations, now well-oiled and fully integrated within their organizations, often collaborating tightly with external agencies. 2021 noteworthy examples you will find in this recap: 85% of ANA members have some form of in-house team; per IHAF and Forrester Research, the majority of digital marketing is now produced in-house; Unilever expanded its in-house capabilities to speed up production and drive cost efficiencies; and more….
  • ‘Doing good” and environmental rally became a focus for brands and agencies: 2021 will also be remembered as the year the world of advertising came together in a unified way to take a stand and set broad, ambitious goals for moving toward net-zero carbon emissions. 2021 noteworthy examples you will find in this recap: Unilever and GroupM launched a so-called Data Ethics Compass; the WFA launched the “Planet Pledge”; for Earth Day’s 51st anniversary, brands created campaigns encouraging consumers to live more sustainably; many brands – The Clorox Company, Nestle SA, Procter & Gamble, announced recent wins and made commitments to achieve net-zero emissions in the near future; and more….

We also witnessed a return to growth and business fundamentals: 2021 was also a year of reflection for many, reassessing current efforts and going back to the basics: building strong client/agency partnerships, simplifying operations and collaboration whenever possible, and relying on data, but also professional intuition, to make sound decisions. As we faced yet another year of COVID, the emotional toll led many people to reconsider their professional life, and in some instances, change jobs. But it also reminded us of the fragile yet superb nature of humanity, encouraging more compassion and renewed human connections. We hope to see many of the trends highlighted earlier continue positively in 2022. Looking forward to being part of that journey with you all. Wishing you all a happy and successful 2022!
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Newsworthy Reports and Recent Developments

At AMS, we approach the agency management discipline as four distinct but complementary practice areas – Talent, Work and Performance, Financials, and Agency Reviews and Roster Changes – which is how we categorize the following developments.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary Yearly Recap……….page 3
Agency Roster Changes Summary……….page 5
February 2022 Issue 52……….page 17
March 2021 Issue 53……….page 31
April 2021 Issue 54……….page 42
May 2021 Issue 55……….page 53
Summer 2021 Issue 56……….page 66
September 2021 Issue 57……….page 75
October 2021 Issue 58………..page 90
November 2021 Issue 59……….page 101
December 2021 Issue 60……….Page 110
Disclaimer: The AMS Monthly Industry Update is a summary and analysis of newsworthy agency/client developments picked up in recent trade-related publications and news media.
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