Report: R/GA, VML, Sapient, Ogilvy Interactive Digital 'Leaders'
From a large and diverse pack, Forrester singles out Interpublic's R/GA, WPP's VML, Sapient Interactive, and WPP's Ogilvy Interactive as leading all interactive agencies "because of their overall strategic skills, execution and development capabilities, measurement and analytics skills, social and emerging media prowess, unique company visions, and high client ratings," according to Forrester analyst and report author Sean Corcoran.
WPP's Wunderman, Razorfish, and Omnicom's Organic also ranked as "leaders" in the space, while slightly less auspicious "strong performers" included Omnicom's RAPP, Interpublic's Draftfcb, Rosetta, and AKQA.
Yet "the market has matured to the point that there are only subtle differences between the agencies," according to Corcoran. And more important than any individual rank is the progress that the interactive industry has made as a whole.
"While these interactive agencies spent several years in subservient roles, the leading digital agencies are now ready to play more strategic roles for their clients," Corcoran said. "They will begin to join traditional agencies at the head of the agency table and, in some cases, completely supplant them as the lead agency partner driving marketing and business strategy through the intersection of communication and technology."
One recent development contributing to this shift is the simple fact that clients are reporting greater satisfaction with interactive shops. For example, the average score the agencies received from the 33 client references for their overall performance was 4.3 out of 5.
Also, interactive is growing at the expense of traditional marketing, as clients are shifting much of their budgets toward online marketing and away from traditional media like print and radio. In addition, many of the traditional media -- most significantly television -- are moving to digital platforms where agency skills in technology and analytics are becoming more and more crucial to success.
What's more, due to their skills in areas such as technology, analytics, and social marketing, several interactive agencies are beginning to play bigger roles for their clients by delivering on programs and campaigns outside of their typical domains.
For instance, Razorfish developed and bought an integrated TV and Web campaign for All detergent, while AKQA worked with Fiat to create "eco:Drive," an easy-to-use computer application that connected cars to PCs and gave drivers advice on how to change their driving behavior to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions.
To reach its conclusions, Forrester evaluated agencies against 39 criteria across three high-level buckets including current offering, strategy, and marketing presence. It then assigned scores that corresponded with that data.
Forrester included 11 agencies -- with the exclusion of Digitas, which declined to fully participate but is still included in its analysis -- in the assessment.
Overall, Forrester conceded that its evaluation uncovered a market in which most agencies are at least competent across most major criteria and received high scores from clients.
Also, the most advanced interactive shops might not be best suited for every brand. For example, despite -- or because of -- its rare abilities, R/GA is best suited for "brands with established success in the digital realm looking to take the next step in building innovative digital programs -- such as Nike+ -- and for challenger brands ready to take on more advanced competitors in the digital space."