I feel for Sean Corcoran. The Forrester Research analyst just released his report evaluating the top 11 interactive agencies. He’s going on vacation today. I don’t think the timing is coincidental.
Anytime there’s a third-party evaluation of industry participants, the evaluator gets an earful. I know because I’m the one who is stuck with Adweek’s Digital Report Cards every year. Inevitably, the loudest complaints at first come from those not included. This is inevitable in the fractured interactive world, where comparing three firms can be like apples, oranges and pineapples. Adweek has come up with a squishy, imperfect formula. The agencies need to be U.S. based and in the same competitive set. It’s a very imperfect art, one that completely misses the shops that are doing the most interesting things in digital, ie, Big Spaceship, Deep Focus, CP+B, etc. But it’s the best we can come up with. Forrester sets the bar at $100 million in revenue, at least five competitive mentions from others on the list and, critically, providers of five of the seven service areas.
As I said, everyone will quibble with these kinds of lists. Forrester escapes a lot of wrath because it doesn’t actually rank the agencies. (Adweek give grades. Trust me, you give an agency a D in creative, you’ll hear about it forever.) Instead, it just has two broad groups of “leaders” and “strong performers.” Many of the leaders are names I’d expect: R/GA and Razorfish, for example. A few surprised me. Maybe the one thing that most stood out for me was the low grades AKQA got. Together, they were the lowest of any agency evaluated.
I asked my Twitter followers for their takes. Here’s a sample:
“It's very functional. It fails to consider creativity. it fails to take into account collaboration. And it's not global.” Bryan Fuhr, AKQA
“It seems large agencies have a much different definition then smaller interactive studios.” Daniel Schutzsmith, Core Industries
“I think they should have dug a layer or two deeper to get to the real talent turning out the ideas and work.” Tim Nolan, Hush Studios
“Today there is no one shop that can do it all. Any shop that claims they can is lying.” Adam Kmiec, Marc USA
From the comments on my story:
“It's still a shame that reports like this don't do deeper dives - they look at who is the biggest rather than who has the most skill sets.” Michael Hubbard, Media Two
“FarFar is missing.” Claudius
“Does not mention the small shops that a ton of these guys farm out to. The collaboration model will soon get a fair shake when the habitual "white label" firms come clean, not to mention that the US is not the sole option for digital innovation anymore.” Wiltonbound
It’s interesting feedback, not completely unexpected. I’m interested in figuring out a way to do an evaluation that addresses some of those concerns. The problem is with strict criteria, which tends to make the lists simply the big interactive shops. On the other hand, I think some kind of criteria beats just throwing stuff against a wall, like those made-up lists of “the most creative people.”