Survey: Economy Improving, New Business is Up for Small to Midsize Ad Agencies

Having endured one of the harshest economic periods since the great depression, agencies are reporting that 2011 is off to a better start.

A total of 430 advertising agency executives participated in the 2010 Advertising Agency New Business Survey.

The survey was sent by e-mail to a database of over 10,093 U.S. full service advertising agencies ranging in staff size from 5 to 350 full-time employees. The survey closed end of day, December 31, 2010.  The survey was developed and results analyzed by Michael Gass Consulting, Special thanks to THE LIST for providing the data sampling.

The results are not a scientific study, it does however, provide an indication of their beliefs, feelings and perceptions regarding agency new business trends in the last quarter of  2010.

Here is a summary of the survey results:

  • How has the economy impacted your business? Business is up or up significantly for 47% of the 430 advertising agencies that responded. 34.3% reporting that business was down or down significantly. These percentages are reverse from a similar study conducted in 2008. It looks like the end of The Great Recession for the advertising industry and business is starting to improve.
  • Would you say that obtaining new business is easier or harder than it was in 2009. New business is slightly better. In a 2008 survey, 56% of the agencies indicated new business was hard/harder than the previous year. That number drops to 47% for this 2010 survey, indicating a slight improvement. For 34% of the agencies surveyed new business was the same. 18.5% said it was easier or a lot easier in 2010.
  • What is the number one reason why it is harder to obtain business versus last year? Lack of opportunities (48.6%) was the number 1 reason new business was harder, followed by more competition (23.8%).
  • What are the 3 top sources for new business? 50% of ad agencies generate new business through referrals (25.9%) and personal networks (24.5%), the third primary source of new business is the agency’s website (9.1%).
  • Does your agency have a full-time new business director? If yes, how long have they been employed? More than half of the agencies (57.3%) have a new business director and most of them (38.5%) have been in their position 5 or more years.
  • Does your agency have a blog? 35.8%, of the agencies surveyed still do not have an agency blog.
  • Does your agency have a written new business plan? Just over half of the agencies that responded (53.7%), have a written new business plan.
  • Does your agency have a unique point of differentiation from competitors? An impressive 76.8% of agencies surveyed said yes, they indeed have a unique point of differentiation from their competitors.
  • When asked to briefly describe how their agency was different from the rest, you can decide if they are really that much different from their competition. Here’s a link to over the 243 of the agency’s that chose to respond:

Click on the following link to download a copy of the 2010 Advertising Agency New Business Survey

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. I found reading how 243 agencies verbalize their points of difference to be darkly amusing but not surprising. Many firms could trade their statements with another company and never know the difference! Because marketers generally are expert at verbalizing unique selling points, I suspect sometimes the difference between firms is less in their purported unique characteristics, and more in actual performance. Performance is typically where the rubber meets the road.

  2. interesting article .. according to my study of business .. thanks
    best regards from Indonesia

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Michelle. I particularly liked this one … “Many firms could trade their statements with another company and never know the difference!”

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