Staff Reporters
Jun 14, 2024

Agency Report Cards 2023: We grade 31 APAC networks

Campaign Asia-Pacific presents its 21st annual evaluation of APAC agency networks based on their 2023 business performance, innovation, creative output, awards, action on DEI and sustainability, and leadership.

Agency Report Cards 2023: We grade 31 APAC networks

Welcome to Campaign Asia-Pacific’s annual Agency Report Cards. In our 21st year conducting this critical industry benchmark, we have again opted for quality of research over quantity of reports, using both data-driven metrics as well as an in-depth qualitative analysis in grading agencies.

It means our Agency Report Cards remain the most diligent and comprehensive in the industry. It also means they are highly nuanced - agencies are rarely all bad or all good and our analysis reflects this. The robust reports below, available exclusively to Campaign Asia-Pacific members, evaluate 31 of the top marcomms agency networks in Asia-Pacific.

The Agency Report Cards are available to Campaign members only.
Not a Campaign Asia-Pacific member? Become one now.

As in past years, each report card contains a detailed analysis of the agency's performance, with grading in five key categories: business, innovation, DEI and sustainability, creativity and effectiveness, and management. We continue to include people initiatives, such as retention, training and wellbeing initiatives, under the management grade, which also takes into account performance in all the other areas.

As sustainability issues continue to feature more centrally within the industry and are becoming more important for clients, consumers and, therefore, agencies as well, we assigned a 50% weighting to sustainability in its category with DEI this year, up from 40% last year. 

Details about the criteria and the grading process are available below. You will also find key information such as each agency’s business breakdown, top clients, specialisations and expertise, and how the agency graded its own 2023 performance. 

What's new in our 2023 reports?

Stagwell's media agency, Assembly, joined the rankings for the first time, and Mullenlowe rejoined after being dropped last year. It should be noted that while Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R are now both part of the merged VML, we continued to grade them separately in 2023 as their merger officially came into effect in 2024.

Methodologically, not much has changed, aside from giving sustainability and even split of the grade in its category with DEI. Our overall numeric and letter grade scale is unchanged, making for cleaner comparisons. Note that the numeric grades given to agencies have become increasingly important in distinguishing performance between agencies with the same letter grade. The more comprehensive our evaluation has become, the rarer it is for an agency to over-or-under-perform in all categories to separate themselves. 

The upshot is that many more scores are closer together, with the vast majority earning some variation of Bs or Cs. A-range grades are extremely hard to come by, and only have managed this in select categories. Only one agency finished with an overall A-.

Result trends

In terms of business climate, 2023 remained a challenging year for Asia-Pacific agencies but saw some improvement over the more difficult year in 2022 marked by staff dislocation and reduced consumer spending, which carried over into tighter marketing budgets in 2023. Yet, whereas we saw the most downgrades in the business section in 2022, we saw improvement in 2023 as more agencies (11) earned a higher grade than a lower one (8). 

In the end, just over half (17 out of 31) agencies received an upgraded numerical score this year, ten of which also moved up a letter grade. Nine agencies received a lower numerical grade; three maintained their exact score, and two.

Moreover, every single grading category resulted in more upgrades than downgrades. Not surprisingly, the innovation category saw the most gains (14 upgrades versus just three downgrades) in a year when AI investment and initiatives ran rampant. All agencies sought to apply AI to improve efficiencies, creativity, and client outcomes, and media companies invested in new cookieless solutions.

Creativity and effectiveness rebounded, and normal production shoots and in-office ideation returned in 2023. We saw 11 agencies improve their grades compared to four that slipped. 

The DEI and Sustainability category was the most mixed, as more agencies levelled off these initiatives after fiercely investing in them post-pandemic. Management, meanwhile, saw the least change, with the majority of agencies receiving the same grades they did last year. 

CRITERIA

We assess each agency network in the following categories:

1. Business growth: We assess a combination of overall revenue, new-business revenue (using both reported figures and recorded figures from 2023 in Campaign AI's new business agency rankings using data from consultancies R3 and COMvergence), organic growth, profitability, client wins and losses, and diversification of revenue. 

2. Innovation: A qualitative assessment of Asia-based initiatives and innovations based on their improvements to the agency, people, clients and industry.

3. DEI & Sustainability: We qualitatively assess the degree of commitment to progress in both of these areas, recognising initiatives at holding group level but with more weight given to regional and local initiatives.

4. Creativity & Effectiveness: Compelling and effective campaign work, judged qualitatively. Regional and global awards recognition is included, with higher weighting given to wins at major shows. Work demonstrative of high effectiveness for clients is also considered.

5. Management: A qualitative assessment of leadership performance based on the four categories above plus other elements, such as key regional decisions, management stability, contributions to the industry by agency leaders, commitment to staff training and development, staff annual turnover, and more.

PROCESS

Most agencies complete a written submission form that asks for details across all aspects of the business. Based on this submission, plus extensive independent research and, in most cases, an hour in conversation with the agency's regional leader(s), Campaign Asia-Pacific's senior editors assess each agency's performance across the five grading categories, assigning a grade between 0 and 10 in each category. These point values and their letter-grade equivalents are shown below.  

Once the five category grades are assigned—and discussed at length by the editors—a final grade is calculated by averaging the five grades. The numerical averages first provide a more granular view of how each agency has progressed or regressed. 

Letter grade Description Point value for category grades Point value range for overall grade
A Unmatched 9.5 9.3 and up
A- Outstanding 9 8.8 - 9.2
B+ Excellent 8.5 8.3 - 8.7
B Very good 8 7.8 - 8.2
B- Good 7.5 7.3 - 7.7
C+ Average 7 6.8 - 7.2
C Satisfactory 6.5 6.3 - 6.7
C- Needs work 6 5.8 - 6.2
D+ Poor 5.5 5.3 - 5.7
D Really poor 5 4.8 - 5.2
F Failed 0-4.5 0.0 - 4.7
Past Agency Report Cards: 202220212020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

(Report Cards prior to the 2015 edition were published in print only)

 

Source:
Campaign Asia

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