Analyst(s):Jay Wilson, Lizzy Foo Kune, Christopher Ross
As traditional agencies, consulting firms and system integrators add capabilities and compete head-to-head for brand engagements, marketing leaders gain manifold options within the global digital marketing agency ecosystem. Start your agency search with these detailed insights.
This document was revised on 29 March 2017. The document you are viewing is the corrected version. For more information, see the Corrections page on gartner.com.
Gartner defines the global digital marketing agency landscape as service providers such as consultancies, traditional agencies and system integrators that focus on strategy, development, execution and measurement of customer‐facing digital experiences across the customer journey.
Throughout this document, these service providers are referred to collectively or individually as "agencies." For consideration, providers needed to demonstrate comprehensive capabilities delivering strategic digital transformation, marketing services, creative and content services, technology implementation, and measurement and analytics. They needed to evidence a close alignment with the marketing needs of global brands, whose leaders seek those specific competencies when choosing a marketing service partner.
For this year's Magic Quadrant, Gartner looked beyond the ability of global digital agencies to meet current market needs. Rather, we focused our analytical lens on an agency's ability to drive client growth through its keen interpretation of marketplace trends and deliver transformational technologies or approaches that meet marketers' future needs.
Source: Gartner (March 2017)
Accenture Interactive is a Visionary and continues to grow, ranking as Advertising Age's largest and fastest-growing digital agency network in 2016. 1 As one of the first consultancies to build agency capabilities, Accenture's breadth in the market is evident in its focus on customer experience and digital commerce. Accenture Interactive's numerous creative agency acquisitions over the years are well-aligned with its global business consulting and technology capabilities. Clients include Carnival Cruises, BMW and Kia.
Integration of creative and corporate culture: Rather than force recently acquired creative agencies, such as Fjord and Karmarama, to assimilate to the Accenture culture and process, Accenture Interactive encourages them to maintain their unique identities. This cultural pliancy enables a diverse set of problem-solving approaches for clients.
Client collaboration and responsiveness: Accenture Interactive's clients give the agency high marks for its ability to assimilate to, and collaborate with, their own internal culture and process. Global clients especially laud the agency's regional teams and their ability to provide seamless, coordinated solutions.
Digital commerce and customer experience: Digital commerce implementations drive the largest share of revenue for Accenture Interactive, demonstrating agency alignment to this growing client mandate. For Melia Hotels International, agency efforts drove a 25% increase in direct sales. In addition to leveraging its vertical industry expertise, Accenture Interactive demonstrates results with a customer journey focus, and recently launched its Love Index, which places brand affinity within the context of customer experience.
Partner collaboration: Several client references mentioned that collaboration between Accenture Interactive and their other external partners fell short of expectations.
Data and analytics: The lack of client references naming data and analytics as an agency strength was notable for its absence in comparison to other players. Client references rated Accenture Interactive's data and analytics capabilities and execution lower than we saw for Leaders.
AKQA (part of WPP) is in the Leaders quadrant. AKQA brings together compelling creative capabilities and a focus on developing integrated brand experiences. The agency applies its skills to work for some of the world's largest brands, serving as the digital agency of record for Delta, Volvo and Caterpillar, and delivering notable work for brands such as Nike, Verizon and the BBC. The 2016 acquisition of Potato, a web application provider with clients that include Google and Tate, adds to existing technology depth and provides new capabilities building highly complex, scalable web applications.
Creative: AKQA is a firm that delivers on its claims of integrating art and science to render integrated, creative products, services and experiences. The firm received more than 100 industry creative awards in 2016. Its work with Usher and Tidal won Gold at Cannes Lions, Gold at the Clios and a Gold Pencil at The One Show. The firm's creativity extends to campaigns for innovative projects such as Amazon Echo and wearables for Nike.
Integrated experience: AKQA demonstrates strong capabilities designing and building brand experiences for clients across multiple industries. The firm designed a fully immersive, digitally enabled Nike+ Trial Zone retail experience, allowing consumers to try products in digital replicas of renowned sports venues. Google Cultural Institute engaged AKQA to support virtual front-row seats with a 360-degree view of iconic performances at 60 global locations.
Mobile: Demonstrating strong mobile capabilities with large-scale implementations, AKQA overhauled the Fly Delta app, adding new features and integration for the airline's in-flight entertainment program. AKQA also simplified billing and added artificial-intelligence-powered support on Verizon's My Verizon app.
Global reach: Although the agency has a presence in Asia/Pacific and Latin America, over 90% of AKQA revenue and staffing are focused in North America and Western Europe. Brands seeking a presence outside those regions may find a lack of agency support.
Business pressure: Annual revenue was flat for the year, despite adding new clients such as Caterpillar, Optus, Airbnb and Converse.
Cognizant is a Niche Player, parlaying its technology-focused origins into a comprehensive portfolio of digital marketing services. The agency provides robust technology implementation, user experience (UX) and marketing operations capabilities to support relevant campaigns and experiences. The firm demonstrated focused growth through the acquisition of Idea Couture, an innovation and design shop, Amsterdam-based customer experience agency Mirabeau, and a significant equity stake in ReD Associates, a human science consultancy with expertise in ethnographic research and behavioral economics. Cognizant continues to expand capabilities and regional coverage. Clients include leading consumer packaged goods (CPG), financial services and life science brands.
Technology implementation: With a strong heritage of tackling strategic technology issues, Cognizant earns senior executive trust in implementing technology solutions. Its web development work with a leading healthcare company delivered a unified customer experience for medical professionals across 10 divisions and global affiliates.
Data science and analytics: Cognizant features mature, sophisticated data analytics capabilities that can be applied widely to strategy development, customer experience or more tactical requirements. Its work with a national retail bank featured the integration of data capture, analytics and targeting tools aligned around personalization and improvement of customer satisfaction.
Accelerator methodology: The Cognizant Digital Works managed innovation process integrates well-established design thinking processes with the ability to pilot and scale new concepts and get them to market. The process was instrumental in the development of a mobile application for a national restaurant chain and development and launch of new products for a leading life science brand.
Creative: Cognizant is not yet known for strong creative capabilities, with clients continuing to see the firm's primary strengths as technology- and data-related. Its strong UX practice may serve as a foundation for creative growth.
Early acquisitions: The talent and technology assets of recent acquisitions may take time to fully integrate within the organization.
Deloitte Digital is a Challenger. As the digital arm of Deloitte LLP, the agency's strength lies in its ability to pair consulting services with creative and design capabilities. The agency builds on its data and analytics heritage through work with customer experience design and personalization. While Deloitte Digital has business knowledge across disciplines, marketers looking for industry-specific knowledge in government or healthcare may benefit from the agency's vertical-specific solutions in those markets. Clients include Estée Lauder, LG, Lufthansa and Salesforce.
Account management: Client references were very satisfied with how Deloitte Digital managed their accounts, citing an appreciation for flexible and collaborative relationships.
Integrated marketing technology: As one of the few global digital agencies with a service offering specific to launching digital marketing hub solutions, Deloitte Digital's ability to support clients seeking to modernize their marketing technologies is strong.
Enhanced creative capabilities: Seeking to bolster its creative competency, Deloitte Digital acquired Heat in 2016. Reference clients cited satisfaction with delivery, especially when connecting creative ideas and campaign effectiveness.
Inconsistency in global delivery: References were dissatisfied with the consistency of delivery across global offices, expressing a desire for Deloitte to take advantage of knowledge-sharing opportunities across its business to increase the quality of Deloitte Digital's work.
Client advocacy: Relative to Leaders, the client references provided by Deloitte Digital were less likely to enthusiastically recommend the agency.
DigitasLBi, a Publicis agency, is a Leader. It continues to evolve its Networked Brands approach to delivering measurable business results for clients including Dunkin' Donuts, eBay and Whirlpool. The agency's analytically grounded culture serves as a solid foundation to deliver consistent execution of clients' strategic digital transformation initiatives.
Focus on business results: DigitasLBi was rated highest among its peers by clients for strategic services, as the agency demonstrates a strong understanding of marketing's need to drive business results in commerce and customer experience. Its work creating a new mobile platform for Dunkin' Donuts, and in leveraging dynamic creative retargeting efforts for eBay, has achieved measurable revenue results for those brands.
Account management: The agency was also rated highest for its account and project management services by ensuring that clients' strategic vision wasn't lost in implementation. Clients laud the agency's responsiveness and the stability of account team staffing, combining consistency with agility.
Data and media: DigitasLBi has core strength in data, stemming from its direct marketing heritage, employing over 450 people in analytics. Its Idiom behavioral data platform helps inform its robust in-house media team — a key differentiator in a market where partner agencies are often relied on for media capabilities.
Global reach: While DigitasLBi has a significant global presence — over 2,000 employees in Europe and more than 500 in Asia/Pacific — clients cite inconsistency in global delivery.
Creative: The agency's focus on driving business results through strategy, data and media savvy means that cutting-edge creative may take a backseat to functionality. While clients are satisfied with DigitasLBi's creative capability, they don't rank it as highly as that of some other Leaders.
Epsilon enters this year's Magic Quadrant as a Niche Player. Part of Alliance Data Systems (ADS), Epsilon emerged as a constituent of the marketplace after demonstrating strong integration with Conversant after ADS acquired it in 2014. Epsilon is recognized for using its wealth of customer data for third-party data matching, ad targeting, creative development and personalization programs, among other initiatives. The agency is best-suited for enterprise B2C organizations with performance marketing requirements. Major clients include GSK, Dell, Chase Bank, Del Monte and Nestlé.
Data and analytics: Epsilon executes its data and analytics capability with purpose and intent, receiving the highest marks in client satisfaction for this attribute. Clients benefit from the agency's strong Alliance Data heritage, its seamless acquisition of ad tech provider Conversant, and Epsilon's own rich mix of marketing services.
Expertise in healthcare: Epsilon launched a formal health practice, EpsilonHealth, to provide market-specific expertise and knowledge for its healthcare clients.
Managed services for programmatic media: The agency has strong dynamic creative optimization and programmatic media execution capabilities that make it ideal for performance marketers seeking managed services.
Lack of awareness: As a newcomer to this Magic Quadrant, Epsilon was not cited by agencies as a competitor during RFP processes. The agency's deep expertise in data provides a potential differentiating factor as it continues to grow.
Creative: Client references did not report Epsilon's creative capability as a differentiating factor. The agency has made progress in building out its data-driven creative approach, as evidenced by recent client wins (such as Del Monte), and has made investments in strengthening its creative capabilities.
Havas Worldwide moves to the Challengers quadrant this year . The company operates the Havas Village model, a network of 47 global locations aimed at facilitating a more localized and collaborative relationship with clients. Within Havas Village are several innovation practice areas. The Havas Experience Design practice applies design thinking methodologies to customer experience, and is scaled through Havas' global footprint; leaders in each village encompass the Havas Experience Design Collective. Havas Cognitive is the agency's emerging cognitive computing practice. Clients include IBM, TD Ameritrade, adidas, Energizer and AutoZone.
Client management: The shift to the Havas Village model demonstrated the agency's strong focus on global client relationships. Customer references provided positive feedback in areas of account management, responsiveness and collaboration.
Custom technology deployments: Havas shines in the areas of marketing technology development and integration. The agency's capabilities range from marketing technology platform deployment, to cognitive computing systems installations, to artificial intelligence application management through partnership with IBM Watson. It currently offers these services in 12 markets, with plans to roll out additional services throughout 2017.
Creative: Havas is widely recognized for its creative efforts, winning a Clio, Addy, Cannes Silver Lion and other awards in 2016 for clients such as Hershey's, Evian and Citroen.
Global reach: Eighty-five percent of agency resources and revenue originate in North America and Western Europe, with a small presence in Asia/Pacific and Latin America. Marketers with needs in Asia/Pacific or Latin America may find less robust support in those regions.
Supporting role: Client references indicate Havas Worldwide often operates as part of a portfolio of agencies versus playing a lead digital agency or digital agency of record role.
Huge enters the Magic Quadrant for the first time this year as a Visionary. Positioning itself as a strong client collaborator on customer experience initiatives, Huge focuses on developing differentiated, holistic customer journeys. The firm's clients include Google, Kohl's, Morgan Stanley, Nike and UPS, among other global and regional brands across multiple industries.
Customer experience: Huge's focus on creating holistic customer experiences aligns well with the priorities of marketing leaders. For example, the agency operates Huge Café, an experimental retail store in Atlanta that functions as a living lab for new product and service concepts.
Creative: Huge offers a powerful blend of technology and creative service capabilities. Its Give a Little More campaign for Kohl's broke Black Friday performance records for the retailer. As Google's primary digital agency, Huge and Google developed and launched Think With Google to showcase Google's thought leadership and sample marketing campaigns with information and education for business decision makers and the marketing community.
Strong organic growth: Huge strives to grow organically, not through acquisition of other agencies or partners, but by building and retaining relationships with existing clients. Doing so fuels the agency's 35% annual growth rate.
Account management: Client references indicate that program and account management services could be improved.
Limited global footprint: The majority of agency resources reside in North America and Latin America, providing limited service to clients in need of support in other regions.
IBM iX is a Leader. The agency brings IBM's core strengths in technology and consulting together with creative services built organically and through acquisitions. IBM iX's acquisition spree in early 2016 landed three independent agencies, including Resource/Ammirati, to further expand the firm's creative and design service capabilities. Its Bluewolf acquisition strengthens its ability to provide a Salesforce consulting practice. The agency's global footprint is balanced across North America, EMEA and Asia/Pacific, with more than 15,000 employees serving clients such as Volkswagen, The Masters golf tournament and Sherwin-Williams.
Agility and collaboration: Client references rave about IBM iX's partnership capabilities, giving the firm top marks on collaboration, responsiveness and flexibility. The agency's account and project management teams display a collaborative mentality, earning high marks from client references. Clients cite that internal stakeholders respect agency staff, who overcome challenges while minimizing internal conflict at client organizations.
Strong creative and design: IBM's Design Thinking approach infuses IBM iX deliverables. The agency's customer-first mantra pays off in client kudos. Just as importantly, clients report that IBM iX's creative teams help challenge their internal teams' approach to customer-centric marketing.
Data and analytics: By combining IBM's Watson artificial intelligence capabilities with Expert Personal Shopper, which was recently acquired from Fluid, IBM iX is well-positioned to apply cognitive data solutions to marketing and digital commerce initiatives. Clients rate IBM iX highly for data and analytics execution, particularly in delivering actionable insights to inform business decisions.
Creative scalability: Few reference clients leverage the agency for campaign-focused ideation and broad execution of marketing campaigns.
Smaller project execution: Client references note that IBM iX is more effective at executing large, complex initiatives than smaller projects that require a nimble approach.
iCrossing, part of Hearst, is a Leader. The agency has deep roots in performance and content marketing, now paired with customer experience and technology expertise under its Brand OS framework. Moving beyond its core strengths in search, social and media, iCrossing is increasingly winning brand work by leveraging the deeper consumer insights enabled by Hearst data and expertise. Clients include Amazon, Bayer, Bridgestone, Church & Dwight, DIRECTV, LG, Quaker, PetSmart and Toyota.
Deep content expertise: iCrossing's creative focuses on content experiences and derives relevance in part from its exclusive access to Hearst's behavioral data and editorial resources, winning praise from clients. Client references note iCrossing's keen understanding of consumer behavior, which the agency effectively leverages to develop relevant content.
Collaboration: References report that iCrossing proactively brings varied agency and technology partners together in pursuit of client solutions. This collaborative approach makes iCrossing a strong lead agency.
Multicultural marketing: iCrossing is one of the few agencies evaluated that's made focused investments in multicultural marketing part of its core offering. Marketers who believe multicultural should be central to their business, rather than a specialty, may find iCrossing's approach appealing.
Staffing consistency: Some reference clients expressed some frustration at agency staff turnover.
Global reach: iCrossing's revenue primarily comes from North America and Europe, with a smaller foothold in Latin America. The agency has limited capabilities in Asia/Pacific.
Isobar is a Leader. The agency offers a well-rounded array of technology, data and creative capabilities. Isobar was busy with acquisitions in 2016, adding Flock, VeryStar, Magnetix, Cosin Consulting and Bluecom. These acquisitions strengthened Isobar's services with the addition of new geographic coverage and expanded capabilities in mobile, commerce and service design. Notable clients include Lego North America, adidas, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, NBCUniversal and Wyndham Worldwide.
Range: Isobar is distinguished by strong performance across the spectrum of its practice areas. Clients give the firm high marks for satisfaction with marketing strategy, campaigns, experiences, platforms and products.
Global footprint: Isobar has a strong global presence, with locations in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia/Pacific.
Client relationships: Isobar claims a 95% client retention rate year over year. Client references report high levels of satisfaction and exceptional program and account management capabilities.
Large enterprise focus: Isobar focuses on engagements with global enterprises or government organizations, preferring complex, enterprise-level marketing and technology challenges.
Brand awareness: Isobar was reported to appear less frequently as a competitor by other Leader agencies or as an agency on initial target lists by surveyed clients. Isobar frequently competes with business and IT consulting firms, suggesting that it is still developing awareness of its digital agency services.
Merkle enters this year's Magic Quadrant as a Niche Player . The firm is recognized for its strong data-driven approach and performance marketing and CRM roots. Merkle works with a diverse roster of clients that includes HBO, Target, Samsung, PayPal, Geico, AARP and the American Cancer Society. The firm made three acquisitions in 2016: DBG in the U.K.; Comet Global Consulting in the U.K., U.S. and Spain; and Axis41 in the U.S., adding customer interaction expertise as well as new creative and technical capabilities. Merkle itself was acquired in 2016 by Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN), which is now directing all CRM and data-driven marketing opportunities to Merkle.
Data focus: Data is at the core of Merkle's competencies, powered by its MerkleONE platform. The tool integrates clients' first-party and Merkle's third-party data, creating audiences that can be activated in media platforms for campaign targeting and execution. Merkle also offers premium media through its Publisher Addressable Marketplace.
Customer experience: Merkle offers an in-depth, data-driven methodology for identifying personas, mapping journeys and activating relevant marketing programs from media through to sites. Its process includes delivery of touchpoint maps, a connected content matrix, relevant metrics and a media investment model.
Integrated performance marketing: With data, creative, technology and media under one roof, Merkle applies a highly quantitative approach to its client work, utilizing rigorous testing and optimization to all programs. Its app launch for a leading media company optimized the entire funnel from awareness to subscription, driving as much as a 40% performance increase.
Creative: Given the firm's focus on performance versus branding campaigns, Merkle's creative scope and expertise isn't as broad as leaders in this quadrant or other agencies building on creatively led versus data-focused backgrounds.
Innovation: Merkle does not provide an innovation lab similar to those featured by many agencies. Investment and strategic focus are aligned around performance marketing data, technology, media, and related partnerships and alliances.
Mirum (part of JWT) is a Visionary that is focused heavily on digital marketing business services, with resources across Asia/Pacific, Western Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Latin America, and North America. The agency is known best for its focus on business transformation, experience design and commerce activation. Mirum's client list includes Bank Audi, Mazda, Nokia, Qualcomm, Manulife and Unilever.
Connecting innovation and outcomes: Mirum delivers on the balance of a "big idea" shop and adept tactical partner. Its work on Unilever's Axe Stage Pass commerce activation program presented a creative approach that successfully attracted customers to Walmart stores for product purchases.
Creative services: Client references praised Mirum's creative aptitude, noting satisfaction in its approach not only to traditional creative but also to solution design.
Technology activation: Mirum is known for its many technology partnerships. It succeeds at integrating internal client systems with new technologies. This capability helps clients avoid getting locked into specific technologies, optimizing investments with an eye toward the long term.
Measurement services: Data and analytics make up a small fraction of Mirum's business. Clients using the service report inconsistency in the agency's ability to connect insight to business results.
Brand recognition: Mirum doesn't have the market recognition of other agencies in this Magic Quadrant, and was rarely mentioned by leading agencies' client references as being in their consideration set.
MRM//McCann, a McCann Worldgroup agency (part of Interpublic Group), has moved into the Leaders quadrant. The agency emphasizes the ability to build and sustain meaningful relationships between brands and their customers as its raison d'etre. With a significant presence across North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia/Pacific, the agency boasts 3,200 employees across 40 offices serving large enterprise clients such as Cigna, the U.S. Army and General Motors.
Strategic services: MRM//McCann was one of the top-ranked agencies for strategic services among reference clients. With a focus on relationship marketing, MRM//McCann helps clients transform their businesses around the customer, and is able to deliver measurable business impact as the result of those strategies.
Client relationships: MRM//McCann proves that strong account management is a critical component of client satisfaction. Reference clients express very high satisfaction with the agency's account services and project management teams. They indicate that senior agency management plays a hands-on role throughout the relationship.
Scale: With its global network and digital production capabilities, MRM//McCann is able to scale large global marketing campaigns with relative ease. Clients mention consistent on-time delivery as a key differentiator.
Data and analytics: Although MRM//McCann is making focused investments in its expanding data and analytics practice, many reference clients don't utilize the agency's analytical capabilities as regularly as other Leaders' clients do.
Technology: MRM//McCann's strength in traditional agency services, combined with business consulting expertise, doesn't deliver the depth of technology integration seen in comparable agency Leaders.
OgilvyOne Worldwide (part of WPP Group) is a Leader . The firm continues to be recognized for its creative work while expanding practices in data and technology. Much of this new capability came through acquisition and ongoing integration of firms like Verticurl, Social.Lab, Jussi, Bottle Rocket and Effective. New and notable clients include IBM, Nestlé, Philips, Southwest Airlines, Merck and Coca-Cola.
Creative: OgilvyOne Worldwide is recognized by both the creative community and clients for creative excellence. The firm won the Adweek Global Digital Agency of the Year award for 2016.
Methodology: The agency continues to invest in Data-inspired, Always-On, Valuable Experiences (DAVE), a proprietary methodology that offers an integrated, customer-centric approach to marketing design covering the range of activities from early phases of customer ambition to development of detailed experience maps and key performance indicators (KPIs).
Industry breadth: OgilvyOne Worldwide works with clients across a variety of industries, empowering the firm to share insights across disparate categories. Its work demonstrates a trove of expertise, including the implementation of IBM Watson-powered cognitive programs for fashion, music and retail clients, to social campaigns for pharmaceutical firms such as Merck.
Data and analytics: Despite significant investment and partnership with the WPP Data Alliance, client references indicate OgilvyOne Worldwide hasn't fully realized the potential of its data and analytics practice.
Account services: Clients indicate there are opportunities for OgilvyOne Worldwide project and account management services to be more consistent, especially for large, complex and global engagements.
Possible (part of WPP) is a Niche Player. With capabilities including content marketing and management, web and UX development, and analytics, the digitally focused company looks to connect creative vision with results for clients. Over the past year, Possible has ramped up its marketing efforts, increasing the visibility of its work and talent. Clients include St. Germain (Bacardi), Newell Brands and Shell.
Digital experience design: Possible continues to build out its well-regarded UX, mobile, web, and game design capabilities, which was a motivating factor for winning business with Newell this year.
Global footprint: Possible acquired Munich-based Conrad Caine in 2016, giving it a strong presence in Germany, while adding operations in Latin America. Possible has 21 offices, 13 of which are located outside the U.S.
Social responsibility: Possible sponsors a number of industry events aimed to promote diversity, including the 3% Conference, which has a goal to increase visibility for women creative professionals in the industry. Possible's Costa Rica office received the Bandera Azul certification in June, an initiative that promotes sustainability.
Awareness: Between its talent and capability investments and global growth, Possible has been positioning itself to become more competitive; however, it's not often mentioned by clients of agency Leaders as being in their consideration set.
Strategic breadth: Possible continues to position itself with an executional focus rather than as a broad strategic partner. Possible's primary focus is on how creative, content, UX and technology impact performance media.
Proximity (part of Omnicom's BBDO) enters this year's Magic Quadrant as a Niche Player. Proximity is an all-around creative agency focusing on campaigns from concept to full execution, across every channel from direct to digital, and social to mobile. Over the next year, it's seeking to build on its heritage in direct marketing and customer experience through growth in customer journey analytics, data science capabilities and proprietary agency tools. Its clientele includes brands such as P&G, Visa, Bayer, Bacardi and The Economist. The agency is well-suited to a variety of client sizes, including small and midsize organizations, which make up nearly one-third of its client base.
Customer-centric approach: Proximity puts customer data at the center of its approach to client work, informing journey mapping, content development and measurement.
Dexterity in delivery: Proximity's work with P&G demonstrates its ability to tackle complex, multibrand programs with both creative thinking and pragmatic technical agility.
Creative competence: The agency takes pride in its creative and content capabilities, ascribing one-fourth of its revenue in 2015 to content and creative development.
Lack of awareness: No agency clients surveyed for this research named Proximity as a competitor they see in pitches, nor did references include the agency as part of a consideration set.
Lack of responsiveness: Some client references reported challenges with Proximity's adherence to timeliness, responsiveness and flexibility.
PwC Digital Services is a Challenger, focusing its nearly 13,000 global employees on digital transformation initiatives for some of the world's largest organizations. Ranked as one of the largest global agencies by Ad Age, PwC Digital Services' global revenue has grown dramatically in recent years. In early 2016, PwC acquired creative agency Fluid, furthering its ability to provide creative and design acumen on top of its strengths in strategy. 2 Other notable PwC global acquisitions in 2016 include innovation consulting firm Pond in Sweden, and Salesforce technology consulting firm SI MCC in the Middle East.
Customer experience: PwC Digital Services is known for strength in UX, customer experience (CX) and commerce consulting, particularly in mobile, where it's ranked as one of the top agencies. Its deep industry expertise brings additional relevance in these areas. Continued new hires from creative and design firms help bolster this strength.
Partnership strength: PwC's alliance relationships run deep, spanning Google, Salesforce, SAP, Oracle and others. Its alliance with Adobe helped a software and service provider refocus on customer experience and improve targeting, driving an increase in trial downloads while cutting content production time significantly.
Culture and collaboration: PwC is viewed as a collaborative and flexible partner. Multiple references in prior research commented on PwC's culture, style and approach as very adaptable and accommodating. They said PwC is passionate and innovative in helping the business through the change process.
Marketing focus: Marketers seeking traditional agency execution services at scale won't find that capability as a focal point at PwC. While the firm's capabilities often overlap with those brought by creative and digital agencies, PwC is primarily focused on digital transformation initiatives.
Organic, large-enterprise sales mode: PwC Digital Services is typically integrated into broader PwC client relationships with most of the global enterprises. Smaller marketers may not find a marketing-focused RFP an effective way to engage the organization.
R/GA (part of Interpublic) is a Leader. Its broadening capabilities span digital transformation, business consulting agency services, studios and a startup accelerator. One of the most lauded agencies in this Magic Quadrant for its creative capabilities, R/GA's clients include Samsung, Verizon, Nike, Google and Unilever.
Knowledge of emerging technology: As an agency well-situated to help clients navigate a marketing environment rife with technology disruption, clients stand to benefit from the learning R/GA gains through its investments in startups.
Content design: As consumers increasingly control content consumption with technologies such as ad blocking, R/GA is helping clients counteract with its Content Studio. Here, the agency develops engaging, long-form content to connect with audiences, whether through strong brand creative or multichannel customer experiences.
Innovation focus: While other Leader agencies have innovation labs, R/GA aggressively integrates innovation into its business model. R/GA's Marketing Tech Venture Studio actively solicits startups, providing them with creative and strategic expertise in exchange for equity. The R/GA IP business supports software licensing and partnership deals. It plans to use future accelerator programs to support marketing technology and Internet of Things (IoT) startups. Clients seeking marketing guidance with nascent offerings may benefit from R/GA's innovation focus.
Broad-scale relationships: R/GA focuses on pursuing enterprise client relationships that transcend marketing-only engagements. As such, RFPs with a narrow, tactical focus may find less receptivity from the agency.
Competition from consultancies: R/GA brings a solid approach and innovative thinking to business transformation, but may lack the depth of vertical expertise that traditional management consultancies bring to the table.
Publicis Groupe merged its two leading global digital marketing agencies, Razorfish and SapientNitro, in late 2016. The combined agency, SapientRazorfish, with over 12,000 staffers worldwide, is a Leader in this Magic Quadrant, drawing on combined strengths in consulting, technology and creative services. Clients include Lloyds Banking Group, Mercedes-Benz USA and Patrón Spirits.
Depth of capabilities: SapientRazorfish wins business over a wide swath of competitors, from management consultancies, traditional digital agencies, system integrators and creative shops. Its particular strength in digital commerce is likely to resonate with marketers who are increasingly responsible for driving revenue.
Creative strength: Clients, particularly those from the legacy SapientNitro, laud the agency's creative strategy and execution. Clients note that creative is rooted in customer experience, business objectives and data, and that the agency has an ability to leverage its strong technology capabilities to bring content to life.
Pushing innovation: SapientRazorfish clients note the agency's ability to address business challenges with innovative thinking coupled with emerging technology. Clients appreciate that solutions driving brand business objectives take priority over the agency's own aspirations and investments.
Organization and planning: Some client references expressed concern with the premerger agencies' organizational complexity, staffing, and internal and client communication, a concern that should be closely monitored now that the merger is complete.
Cost: Several clients note that SapientRazorfish is expensive, and that scope creep can be an issue if not carefully monitored. It's noteworthy, however, that these same clients were highly satisfied and likely to recommend the agency to others.
VML (part of WPP) moves into the Leaders quadrant this year. This change results from VML's increased ability to deliver on data and analytics combined with positive client references. The agency focuses on connecting brand experience through technology across three core capabilities: strategy and intelligence, platforms and experiences, and campaigns and content. The firm is recognized for its cross-disciplinary partnerships, including those with Adobe, Acquia and Salesforce, as well as innovation partnerships with venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and software development organization Pivotal Labs. Clients include Ford, Kellogg's, PepsiCo, Colgate-Palmolive, Kimberly-Clark, Electrolux and New Balance.
Approach to account management: VML's goal is to work intimately with clients to gain a shared vision for their work, using an agile project management approach to set goals and continually evaluate achievements. Client references affirm that this approach is adding value.
Client collaboration: Client references gave the agency top marks on collaboration. They note that VML strives to understand their business, proactively identifies opportunities and is transparent in communicating challenges.
Strategy: VML's strategic services continue to impress, with clients lauding the agency's ability to deliver customer-centric strategies that solve business problems while improving brand equity. Clients note that the agency is diligent about leveraging research to drive strategic insights.
Consistency in delivery: Some client references noted that VML fell short of expectations regarding timeliness and quality assurance.
Global footprint: While VML has global capabilities, it has a less significant presence in Latin America and Europe.
Wunderman (part of WPP) is a Challenger this year. Operating as a "Creatively Driven" and "Data Inspired" agency, Wunderman integrates strong creative with the strengthening of its data and technology capabilities. Recent acquisitions include Acceleration, a marketing technology consultancy, Conexance (France) and PMWeb a Brazilian cross-channel campaign management and optimization firm. Clients include Ford, Microsoft, Dell, United Airlines, Pfizer, GSK and T-Mobile USA. With over 7,000 people in 175 offices in 60 countries, the agency provides wide global coverage.
Data: Wunderman strengthened its data practice with the evolution of its Zipline data platform, increasing data management staff to more than 1,000 full-time equivalents (FTEs) and creating several data-related patents. The firm has proven experience developing and managing 135 enterprise customer engagement platforms.
Healthcare expertise: Wunderman Health provides in-depth expertise and targeted marketing services designed for the healthcare market. The offering complements core Wunderman digital marketing capabilities with specialized expertise in over-the-counter (OTC), health and wellness, specialist medical diseases, and ongoing chronic conditions.
Marketing automation: Wunderman's Marketing Solutions Center network provides CRM and marketing automation execution, analytics and reporting services via six production centers around the world. This group includes over 1,200 production and CRM experts, always-on service and coverage for marketers in 130-plus countries.
Complement versus lead: While many Leaders have been elevated to lead agency, even taking on business strategy and branding, the majority of Wunderman client references use the agency in a supportive versus lead role, and don't rate the agency as highly as Leaders are rated for strategic services.
Innovation: Wunderman does not operate innovation labs or in-depth business design and product development facilities, as many leading agencies do. Wunderman's work tends toward traditional, performance-based marketing initiatives.
We review and adjust our inclusion criteria for Magic Quadrants as markets change. As a result of these adjustments, the mix of vendors in any Magic Quadrant may change over time. A vendor's appearance in a Magic Quadrant one year and not the next does not necessarily indicate that we have changed our opinion of that vendor. It may be a reflection of a change in the market and, therefore, changed evaluation criteria, or of a change of focus by that vendor.
Huge, an Agency to Watch in last year's Magic Quadrant, was added as a result of its revenue growth, which now exceeds the Magic Quadrant Inclusion Criteria minimum of $175 million.
Merkle continues to invest in creative services and now offers a complete full-service digital agency solution for marketers.
Epsilon ranks as the largest U.S. agency by Advertising Age. It now complements its core strengths in data and marketing operations with full-service digital marketing agency solutions for its clients.
Proximity, part of Omnicom's BBDO, offers full-service capabilities and meets all Inclusion Criteria.
FCB, a participant in the previous global digital marketing Magic Quadrant, is increasingly focused on brand work and is not typically competing directly against the agencies covered here.
Wieden+Kennedy was dropped from this Magic Quadrant because of its primary focus on brand advertising. Much like FCB, the agency does not typically compete head-to-head with the agencies profiled here.
To qualify for inclusion, vendors need:
Revenue: Providers in this evaluation must have a global revenue of at least $175 million for digital marketing services.
Core business: Providers in this evaluation are service providers — including consultancies, agencies and system integrators — focused on strategizing, creating, distributing and measuring customer-facing digital experiences across the customer journey. They create and manage digital experiences that drive awareness, consideration, conversion and advocacy across all digital channels. As such, providers serve as the primary strategic partner, lead agency or digital agency of record for at least three enterprise clients.
Full-service provider: Providers in this evaluation must offer the following critical capabilities: strategic services (business, marketing and/or brand strategy), content development and creative services, technology implementation, and measurement and analytics. Agencies under consideration must demonstrate a comprehensive track record delivering these capabilities to their clients across paid, owned and earned digital media, including website, social media, email, mobile, paid search and digital advertising channels.
Global reach: Providers in this evaluation must have a global reach. They must have developed communications solutions to engage audiences in at least three global regions, with resources and staffing on the ground in those regions.
10 new clients: Providers in this evaluation must have acquired at least 10 new clients in the past 12 months (which may include new engagements within a different business unit of an existing client). Client acquisition costs in this sector are high, and the ability to grow business in an existing account is a bellwether of success.
Gartner analysts evaluate vendors on the quality and efficacy of the processes, systems, methods or procedures that enable IT provider performance to be competitive, efficient and effective, and to positively impact revenue, retention and reputation within Gartner's view of the market.
Product or Service
Source: Gartner (March 2017)
Gartner analysts evaluate vendors on their ability to convincingly articulate logical statements. This includes current and future market direction, innovation, customer needs, and competitive forces and how well they map to Gartner's view of the market.
Offering (Product) Strategy
Source: Gartner (March 2017)
Leaders possess deep, broad capabilities across all competencies, most notably related to strategic services (which include business strategy and digital business transformation skills). Leaders implement comprehensive, effective solutions that leverage sizable investments in creative talent and marketing technology. They invest their own R&D dollars to set market direction. As a result, Leaders are the providers to watch in the ongoing evolution and transformation of marketing in a digital world.
Leaders maintain a viable business, regardless of the global economy. Leaders extend their client relationships far beyond marketing promotions, often appearing on competitive bids outside their primary sector (for example, management consulting, production ideation and product development requests for quotations). Leaders help their clients develop digital marketing platforms designed for systemic growth and scale; they do so by harnessing their own significant expertise implementing digital marketing programs driven by data and analytics.
Challengers have a proven ability to execute their current offering but haven't yet executed a digital marketing vision on the scale of the Leaders. Challengers can become Leaders if their vision develops and they implement client engagements that move the market forward. As such, it's not uncommon for large end-user clients to move their engagements between Challengers and Leaders as their needs shift from management consulting, to product ideation, to promotional plan execution.
Challengers deliver exceptional work, but tend toward reticence with regard to pushing clients to take business risks (as opposed to promotional risks). Whereas Leaders aren't afraid to challenge clients to move out of their comfort zone, Challengers are less likely to do so. Challengers may have a global staffing model in progress that is still in need of refinement. With strategic services typically embedded in marketing and promotional tactics, Challengers often lack the kind of consulting power in which the Leaders have invested. This is evidenced by Leaders' recruitment of business strategists from top management consulting firms to address digital business transformation.
Visionaries align with the market's evolution, but lack a proven depth and breadth of services — or a demonstrated execution of their marketing vision through deeper client engagements. Visionaries are often strong in creative services, UX, search, analytics and performance. While Visionaries have a robust portfolio of skills, they apply resources and talents to brand- and identity-building, marketing promotions, advertising or public relations. Many lack the business strategy expertise we find among the Leaders.
Visionaries often introduce new technology, services or business models, but without the solid financial strength, service and support — or more sophisticated sales models and partner/alliance programs — required for ongoing client benefit or viability. Visionaries can become Challengers or Leaders provided they increase the breadth and depth of their service offering beyond promotional marketing.
Niche Players may demonstrate proven prowess in a specific market segment; that, or they have limited ability to innovate or outperform other providers. Some Niche Players focus on a particular marketing function or geographic region; they may be choosing to maintain what they do well to avoid the risk-taking attributes of Visionaries and/or Leaders. Niche Players are often new market entrants; they can also be organizations opting to focus on a core set of offerings. Alternatively, they may be struggling to acquire clients seeking providers with leadership or visionary qualities. Niche Players, because of a more limited view of marketing, typically excel at their core competency. They have adequate functionality, limited implementation and support capabilities, and a relatively limited customer base compared to Leaders, Challengers or Visionaries.
This Magic Quadrant analyzes digital marketing agencies, consultancies and system integrators that compete on the global stage. Agencies were evaluated on how well they are executing their vision for digital marketing through primary and secondary research, including client references.
Finding the right agency partner is one of the most consequential — and expensive — decisions marketing leaders make. According to Gartner's 2016 CMO Spend Survey, marketing leaders invest 22% of their marketing budgets on outsourced services. Despite a desire to build internal capabilities, marketing leaders expect their reliance on agency capabilities to continue. Our 2016 Marketing Organizational Design and Strategy Survey finds only 10% of marketers expecting to decrease their use of agencies in the next three to five years.
As marketing's role expands, particularly in the delivery of data-driven, customer-centric initiatives that enhance customer experience and drive revenue, so do the demands marketers place on their agency partners. This year's Magic Quadrant research reveals a fervor among agency participants to deliver broader business consulting and technology services their clients now require to succeed.
The agency push to support business results doesn't reduce their creative focus. Agencies recognize that even the best digital transformation strategies and technology integrations won't work without a compelling creative layer to bring them to life. As traditional market players boost their business consulting capabilities — as MRM//McCann is doing with its emerging change management services — we see consultancies hiring creative leadership away from agencies. In some cases, firms lauded for their analytical prowess — Deloitte Digital, IBM iX and Accenture Interactive most notably — are acquiring entire creative shops.
The challenge for the management consultancies — one called out by traditional agencies as a competitive weakness — is culture. How do hip creative types find inspiration from, and cultural cohesion with, their more traditional consultancy colleagues? Can these disparate approaches to strategic thinking and tactical execution be forced into a seamless solution for clients? The answer may lie in allowing those cultures to coexist, but not to merge them. 3
An opposing struggle exists at traditional agencies. Fighting to keep a seat at the CMO's table, they're building consulting capabilities by hiring experts in change management and technology integrations. While growing these capabilities organically may alleviate culture conflict, the management consultancies dominate in terms of vertical expertise and long-standing C-level and board relationships. Increasingly, entrenched consulting firms are intercepting the digital transformation initiatives that drive marketing communications opportunities — the traditional agencies' strength — before they even get to RFP.
The traditional agencies and consultancies also face a common challenge: how to stay relevant and appealing to young creative talent, which is increasingly attracted to Silicon Valley. This talent pool has a more diverse makeup than ever, and includes not only artists, designers and writers, but also engineers and data scientists who look to combine their technical skills with the creativity to solve problems.
On the technology front, we find that almost all agencies profiled provide a laundry list of technology alliances — from Adobe and Oracle to Google and Facebook. The simple existence of an alliance is no longer differentiating; instead, marketers should explore how agencies are leveraging their technology partnerships and orchestrating diverse tools to address a client's business needs.
To that end, we anticipate traditional agencies boosting their investments in martech and adtech startups this year. For these firms, the path to differentiation may travel through incubation and accelerator programs, and perhaps through acquisition.
If the ultimate goal for market players — traditional agencies, management consultancies and system integrators — is to become the CMO's trusted advisor, the question becomes: Who will emerge the winner? Will management consultancies and system integrators raise their creative game enough to win the hearts of marketers? Will agencies establish the depth of consulting credentials to win the minds of the C-suite?
Ultimately, the real winners are marketing leaders, who can rest assured that an increasingly capable, diverse set of marketing service providers conform to the CMO's expanding mandate.
While the large agencies presented in this Magic Quadrant are strong service providers, we see smaller agencies also embracing core capabilities of consulting, creative and technology. As the single agency of record model disappears and agency rosters expand, investigate smaller firms for a full mix of agility, innovation and responsiveness (see "How to Maximize the Value of Small and Midsize Marketing Agencies" ).
As your needs — and the agencies qualified to meet them — become more diverse, take a collaborative approach to agency selection. Align internal stakeholders and resources, including IT, commerce, sales and customer service, to the objectives of the search before embarking on the agency selection journey.
Also recognize that simply putting a piece of business out for bid won't get potential partners falling over themselves to respond. As agencies of all stripes look to solidify their credentials (and not just their bottom line), the best agencies will remain selective. They'll want to work with marketers who demonstrate a clear vision and proven commitment to business transformation.
Finally, invest time, transparency and accessibility into agencies pursuing your business. Focus your RFP on specific business challenges, leaving the potential solutions open to agencies' expertise. With such rapidly expanding capabilities at your service, look beyond written proposals. Take time to meet agencies in person — to determine how they think, how they work internally, and how they'll collaborate with your other partners — and assess the ability of their cultures to complement your organization (see "Follow Four Steps to Find the Right Agency" ).
The following agencies aren't included in this Magic Quadrant due to limited revenue or global reach, but are receiving industry accolades and are experiencing significant growth according to Advertising Age, while challenging the traditional agency business model:
360i — Part of the Dentsu Aegis Network, 360i is a full-service digital agency focusing on data-driven media and creative. The agency had a 17.5% jump in revenue going into 2016, and often competes against the agencies covered in this Magic Quadrant. 360i added significant media capabilities in 2016 with its Vizeum merger. 360i clients include Oreo, Pernod Ricard and HBO.
Edelman Digital — Edelman Digital is part of public relations powerhouse Edelman, which experienced a 21% increase in revenue in 2015. With a core strength in social marketing, Edelman had the strongest growth within a group of traditional public relations firms (including Weber Shandwick and FleishmanHillard) that are increasingly playing a role in marketers' broader efforts.
Critical Mass — Part of Omnicom Group, Critical Mass is a full-service experience design agency headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, with 12 offices worldwide. The agency grew revenue 16% going into 2016, and was named an "Elite Agency" in the U.K. by The Drum, an "Agency to Watch" by Advertising Age, and a top three digital/specialist agency in the world by the Warc 100. At the start of 2017, the agency announced it took a minority stake in Prolific Interactive, a mobile design firm.
72andSunny — Part of MDC Partners, 72andSunny continues its exceptional growth, with a 20.6% increase in revenue going into 2016, on top of a 33% jump the prior year. The firm has offices in New York and Los Angeles, with its Amsterdam office winning particular accolades, including Creative Innovators and International Agency of the Year runner-up from Advertising Age. Clients include Axe, adidas and Google.
Anomaly — Another MDC Partners agency, Anomaly exemplifies a renegade approach to its clients' businesses, eschewing traditional agency operating models. For example, it dropped agency fees in exchange for an ownership stake in Lyst, a fashion website. 4 With a strong global network including offices in North America, China and Europe, It was named Advertising Age's Agency of the Year for 2016, with a 44% increase in revenue. 5 The agency's focus on integrated Hispanic marketing is particularly differentiating.
1 B. Johnson. "What's Up at Agencies? Revenue, Jobs, Stocks — and Digital." Advertising Age. 1 May 2016.
2 M. Eaton. "The New Normal: PwC Acquires Fluid as the Big 4 Inch Closer to CMO Role." Marketing Interactive. 1 February 2016.
3 O. Schybergson and B Shah. "Can Corporate and Creative Cultures Ever Truly Merge?" Fast Company Design. 4 April 2016.
4 J. Swift. "Anomaly Drops Fees for Lyst as Part of Stake Deal." Campaign. 12 May 2016.
5 E.J. Schultz. "2017 Agency of the Year: Anomaly." Advertising Age.
The authors would like to recognize the research provided by Raman Arya, Shubhangani Bala, Harshit Goel, Shivani Gupta, Sylvie Lassalle, Shashank Nigam and Guninder Pal Singh. They also wish to recognize project management and writing support services provided by Lauren Abel and Barbara Sibley, as well as a contribution from Jennifer Polk.
Product/Service: Core goods and services offered by the vendor for the defined market. This includes current product/service capabilities, quality, feature sets, skills and so on, whether offered natively or through OEM agreements/partnerships as defined in the market definition and detailed in the subcriteria.
Overall Viability: Viability includes an assessment of the overall organization's financial health, the financial and practical success of the business unit, and the likelihood that the individual business unit will continue investing in the product, will continue offering the product and will advance the state of the art within the organization's portfolio of products.
Sales Execution/Pricing: The vendor's capabilities in all presales activities and the structure that supports them. This includes deal management, pricing and negotiation, presales support, and the overall effectiveness of the sales channel.
Market Responsiveness/Record: Ability to respond, change direction, be flexible and achieve competitive success as opportunities develop, competitors act, customer needs evolve and market dynamics change. This criterion also considers the vendor's history of responsiveness.
Marketing Execution: The clarity, quality, creativity and efficacy of programs designed to deliver the organization's message to influence the market, promote the brand and business, increase awareness of the products, and establish a positive identification with the product/brand and organization in the minds of buyers. This "mind share" can be driven by a combination of publicity, promotional initiatives, thought leadership, word of mouth and sales activities.
Customer Experience: Relationships, products and services/programs that enable clients to be successful with the products evaluated. Specifically, this includes the ways customers receive technical support or account support. This can also include ancillary tools, customer support programs (and the quality thereof), availability of user groups, service-level agreements and so on.
Operations: The ability of the organization to meet its goals and commitments. Factors include the quality of the organizational structure, including skills, experiences, programs, systems and other vehicles that enable the organization to operate effectively and efficiently on an ongoing basis.
Market Understanding: Ability of the vendor to understand buyers' wants and needs and to translate those into products and services. Vendors that show the highest degree of vision listen to and understand buyers' wants and needs, and can shape or enhance those with their added vision.
Marketing Strategy: A clear, differentiated set of messages consistently communicated throughout the organization and externalized through the website, advertising, customer programs and positioning statements.
Sales Strategy: The strategy for selling products that uses the appropriate network of direct and indirect sales, marketing, service, and communication affiliates that extend the scope and depth of market reach, skills, expertise, technologies, services and the customer base.
Offering (Product) Strategy: The vendor's approach to product development and delivery that emphasizes differentiation, functionality, methodology and feature sets as they map to current and future requirements.
Business Model: The soundness and logic of the vendor's underlying business proposition.
Vertical/Industry Strategy: The vendor's strategy to direct resources, skills and offerings to meet the specific needs of individual market segments, including vertical markets.
Innovation: Direct, related, complementary and synergistic layouts of resources, expertise or capital for investment, consolidation, defensive or pre-emptive purposes.
Geographic Strategy: The vendor's strategy to direct resources, skills and offerings to meet the specific needs of geographies outside the "home" or native geography, either directly or through partners, channels and subsidiaries as appropriate for that geography and market.