Despite a slowing economy toward the end of the year, b2b agencies flourished in 2007, adding new clients, developing innovative campaigns and adding new service areas to meet client demands.
Total ad spending last year was $148.99 billion, up only 0.2% over 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence. In the fourth quarter, dragged down by the general slump in the U.S. economy, ad spending declined by 0.1% compared with the fourth quarter of 2006.
However, many b2b agencies experienced double-digit revenue growth last year as clients hired agency partners to help them grow their businesses, launched new ad campaigns and experimented with new media platforms.
“2007 was one of our busiest years ever,” said John Osborn, president-CEO of BBDO New York, which BtoB has selected as top large agency of the year.
“What we're being asked to do more and more is create a roadmap for clients that shows them how to best connect with audiences in ways that are most meaningful to them,” Osborn said. “We are offering a one-two punch of behavioral planning and engagement mapping.”
BBDO beefed up both of these areas by adding new directors of behavioral planning and engagement mapping to help lead development of strategic, relevant messaging for clients.
This played out in several innovative programs for clients, such as an integrated campaign for FedEx Kinko's aimed at small businesses and a virtual city developed for Motorola showcasing its technology to law enforcement and municipal IT workers.
Other agencies agree that clients are seeking more strategic services that go deeper into understanding audience behavior and developing engaging, relevant content, particularly as the economy slows down.
“Our business has evolved. It is not just about big media budgets, which are few and far between,” said Mike O'Toole, exec VP-partner at PJA Advertising+Marketing, winner of the small agency category. “Now, a lot of it is about developing rich content that can be deployed in emerging channels, some of which are free, and some of which cost far less than traditional media.”
Last year, a big priority for PJA was developing content for new interactive channels, including online videos, blogs, podcasts and social networks.
To promote a partnership between Microsoft Corp. and Novell, PJA developed an online resource center at www.moreinterop.com, featuring online videos, customer testimonials, technology resources, white papers, blogs, podcasts and other resources for IT professionals.
“Brands have to create content that is interesting,” O'Toole said. “They have to develop more relevant conversation that feeds into the purchase process in user-generated channels.”
Doremus, winner of the midsize agency category, also expanded its digital services, which now make up about 40% of the agency's total business.
At the end of 2006, Doremus hired Michael Litchfield from interactive agency Avenue A|Razorfish, as director of interactive. One of Litchfield's priorities has been helping clients develop new interactive programs around emerging platforms such as Web 2.0.
“As we see more of the marketing dollar shift towards the digital medium, we see more interest from clients seeking to differentiate. With this comes a willingness to explore Web 2.0 and the respective richer and social media offerings,” Litchfield said.
Last year, Doremus developed several campaigns leveraging user-generated content and social media.
For example, for a campaign to promote Intel's embedded design products, Doremus created a Web site featuring online videos of design engineers and invited users to send in their own stories. And in an integrated campaign for database architecture company Brocade, Doremus created a viral campaign around a fictitious character called “DCX Man.”
All of this is paying off for Doremus, which saw revenue growth of more than 30% last year.
As clients seek marketing returns in terms of actual sales, they are looking for partners that can deliver results.
“Clients want an agency partner that can evolve from driving demand to engendering engagement,” said Tom Stein, president-CEO of Stein Rogan+Partners, runner-up in the small agency category.
“In today's market, "driving demand' is actually less and less relevant. Buyers are too savvy; there are too many choices. Through engagement, we can articulate our clients' value propositions and differentiation, and actually hasten the sales cycle.”
For example, last year Stein Rogan created an integrated campaign for client OnForce, an online marketplace for IT service professionals, to help create sales leads.
It used online ads, email, direct mail, a microsite, white paper syndication, search marketing and trade show marketing to target value-added resellers, IT staffing firms and other audiences with the OnForce value proposition.
As part of the program, Stein Rogan developed a Service Price Index based on OnForce marketplace data, which is syndicated to such tech sites as TechIQ.
The campaign generated 10,000 sales leads—well above the goal of 8,000.
B2b agencies expanded other service areas as well, including analytics, search engine marketing, database marketing and strategic consulting.
The following pages contain profiles of the leading agencies in four categories: large, midsize, small and interactive.