How is agency business so far in 2014?

Of the 154 agencies that filed responses for our annual Agency A-to-Z, 64 reported that business is up so far this year, with eight saying it was about the same, while just three divulged that business is down so far in 2014. Of course, with 70 firms opting out of the question altogether, the picture is far from complete. ­Nevertheless, we can say that 55% of agencies appear to be experiencing increased revenues this year. And of those 64 firms, 27 claimed to be up by 20% or more.

What types of work generated revenue in 2013?

We then asked our A-to-Z Agencies for a basic breakdown of revenues across channels/tactics and audiences for 2013, and 74 firms responded.

The two most popular categories were, once again, HCP Digital/Web/Mobile, for which 85% of respondents posted a revenue stream, and Consumer Digital/Web/Mobile (72% of respondents). The mean average income represented by HCP Digital/Web/Mobile was 29%, with a median of 25%. Similarly, the mean average slice of income attributed to Consumer Digital/Web/Mobile was 23%, with a median of 16%.

Whereas last year’s survey conveyed a shift from traditional channels to digital channels, this year’s data painted a more stable picture, with no statistically significant differences in budget lines between 2012 and 2013.

What is keeping agencies up at night?

We once again asked agencies to name their current biggest challenges. A total of 90 challenges were reported by 66 firms. The biggest challenge was Talent Acquisition (cited by 29% of responding agencies, representing more than a fifth of all challenges mentioned). A further 18% of agencies cited Managing Growth as a challenge, which certainly ties in with the reports of increased revenues for many firms this year. Other notable challenges were a direct result of the difficult pharma environment, or of the actions of clients, including Industry M&A Activity (12% of agencies), Procurement (8%), Agency Consolidation/Network Agreements (6%) and Shrinking Budgets (6%). Interestingly, regulatory issues were not a chief concern

What will happen in the next 12 months?

Finally, we asked agencies to tell us what they thought would be the biggest trends in the coming year, and 65 firms responded.

Of the 174 trends mentioned, 42% related to the continued ­evolution of digital, including mobile, social media, sales tools, wearable technology, electronic health records, virtual solutions and online listening.

A further 11% of trends referred to the notion of patient centricity and the empowered consumer, while content marketing (9% of trends mentioned), sophisticated data and analytics (8%) and industry mergers and acquisitions (7%) were top of mind.

Breaking it down further, 20% of agencies expected to see a greater degree of personalized communications and brand experiences over the next 12 months, 17% predicted there will be an increase in social media activity in the pharma space, and 9.4% said the effects of the Affordable Care Act would be far-reaching.

To check the fast facts on more than 150 agencies, see the Agency A-to-Z on pages 183 to 225, including contact details, rosters, financial information (where available) and examples of creative work. All data was submitted online by the agencies.