With mobile advertising and marketing budgets growing, agencies are scrambling to bolster in-house expertise to match client demand. In that respect, SapientNitro, AKQA, Ogilvy, TribalDDB and Razorfish lead the pack, according to the first Wave report from Forrester that ranks digital agencies by mobile capability.
To qualify for the evaluation, Forrester required agencies to provide a comprehensive set of mobile marketing services, have at least five years of mobile experience, a strong and growing revenue stream from mobile marketing and appear frequently as a competitor for new business and on brands’ short lists.
The ranking criteria also included the agencies’ methodologies for strategy development and program execution, their approaches to technology for measurement and analytics and the strength of their company vision for mobile.
That process ultimately boiled down to nine leading U.S. vendors, which also included iCrossing, VML, Rosetta and Possible Worldwide, described as “strong performers” behind the top five.
Overall, SapientNitro received the highest client scores on a scale of zero (weak) to five (strong) across roughly 12 metrics spanning their current services, strategy and market presence.
“The agency challenges its clients to think creatively about mobile’s role in strategic development and has the execution chops to implement. SapientNitro also brings a very long-tenured and experienced mobile management team that is well positioned to bring to life its clear and forward-looking vision for mobile,” stated the Forrester report.
Runner-up AKQA was cited as a strong choice for any brand “looking to make a big splash in mobile,” but the study said the agency could improve its marketing skills and tactics. Ogilvy was credited with having a detailed long-term plan for mobile expansion, but needs to balance its vision with greater focus on clients’ immediate needs.
Similarly, the report gave TribalDDB high marks for expansive client relationships and the ability to integrate mobile with other strategic initiatives, but faulted its optimization efforts' post-campaign launch.
Razorfish was dinged for being too expensive. “The clients we spoke with feel that Razorfish costs more than other agencies with comparable services. However, the agency has a very good client retention rate. So if cost is a concern, it’s not keeping the vast majority of its clients from maintaining the relationship,” stated the report. Rosetta was also viewed as pricier than competitors.
Among others, iCrossing was noted for using its background in search to develop more detailed audience personas than other agencies and provide strong mobile analytics. VML earned the highest scores for collaboration, “making it a great choice for any brand that has a full agency roster and needs to add a mobile partner to the mix,” according to Forrester.
While the top-ranked agencies had varying strengths and weaknesses, the study underscored certain common approaches to mobile. These include spreading mobile expertise across different departments or disciplines within agencies so mobile know-how isn’t siloed within one group.
Likewise, the vast majority of mobile programs studied were part of a larger, integrated digital effort. Even where an agency is hired for just the mobile piece of a campaign, it must work with other agencies to ensure a consistent approach for engaging the customer.
All the agencies also predict that mobile will eventually eclipse PC-based use and that the medium will become the key connection between online and offline worlds. That, in turn, will lead mobile strategies and technology to end up in everything from cars to cable boxes.