IPG’s UM Leads Forrester’s Media Agency Wave

Forrester Media Agency Wave
Forrester’s Media Agency Wave, released Tuesday, gave the highest ratings to the agencies that used data platforms to improve both media execution and ad creatives and created a more centralized, integrated experience for their clients.

IPG media agency UM led the 10 media agencies evaluated for the report. To qualify, each agency needed $10 billion in yearly billings, global presence and had to employ more than 6,000 people. (The previous global media agency Wave came out in 2018.)

UM scored the highest in its offerings and strategy, with a key factor being its Kinesso offering, built from the Acxiom acquisition. Not only does Kinesso use that data for typical insights, it’s now applying it to develop content for digital ad campaigns, identify audiences and target content to audiences in a precise way, said Forrester principal analyst Jay Pattisall.

Omnicom’s OMD, Publicis’ Starcom and Dentsu’s Carat also scored as leaders.

Meanwhile, WPP agencies MediaCom, Mindshare and Wavemaker scored well enough in execution to place in the next-best “strong performer” section, but lagged behind Omnicom’s PHD, Publicis’ Zenith and Havas Media Group when it came to strategy.

WPP’s media agencies operate in a more decentralized way, Pattisall said, which he didn’t consider as strong of an approach.

“My judgement is that a more centralized structure is more beneficial at this stage,” Pattisall said, adding that media execution improves when agencies simplify and centralize their offerings.

He believes media agencies will eventually become so centralized, and with such integrated offerings, that Forrester will evaluate them at the holding company level.

Creative moving into media

“Precision creative” – where agencies use data to create multiple versions of an ad to distribute over a highly targeted audience – is becoming a critical competency among media agencies, Pattisall said.

One agency used data to create a feature-length documentary called “5B,” and supported it with a paid media campaign to ensure the right people saw promotions for it, Pattisall said.

“This shows us a path in which creative can absolutely live inside the media agency, or at the very least be closely partnered,” Pattisall said. “Because of their ability to work with data platforms, technology, machine learning and AI, the content [media agencies] create now is heavily data-driven.”

Programmatic becomes just another way to buy

While Forrester previously evaluated programmatic in its own category, it is now lumped into media agencies’ overall buying competency.

“Everything is moving toward programmatic,” Pattisal said, citing not only digital but emerging areas such as addressable TV. As part of its criteria, Forrester evaluated how agencies used private marketplaces to curate inventory and target appropriate inventory for their clients, and how those tactics affected waste and fraud.

Data and identity

All the agency data platforms were progressing toward integration, but Pattisall cautioned that they all still rely on some form of third-party data.

“It’s a changing world with privacy and tech companies’ approach to cookie deprecation, so they will need to continue to innovate to stay at the forefront of that,” Pattisall said. Media agencies will also need to work with their clients to build out their own first-party data.

And having data about identity and audiences will allow media agencies to continue to bring data-driven creative to the forefront of their more centralized offerings (a strong example of a centralized offering being Publicis One, for example).

“Scaling creative content with audience data is something I know [brands] desire,” Pattisal said, and why a simplified offering encompassing technology, media and creative is the way of the future for media agencies.

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