State of the Industry 2015: The Agency Landscape

Growing head counts, globalisation and investment in new branding are key trends highlighted in C&IT's State of the Industry 2015 report.

2014 was a year of growth for the majority of agencies
2014 was a year of growth for the majority of agencies

Last year (2014) was significant in UK event agency land, with the shock demise of pharmaceutical specialist W&O and Nigel Cooper buying Zibrant from Motivcom, which was in turn sold to Sodexo Motivation Solutions UK (SMSUK).

Other noteworthy acquisitions and partnerships include Smyle picking up Pumphouse Productions in April and Touch Associates buying James Digital and investing in DBMT.

Yet despite this shake-up, C&IT's annual Top 50 agencies ranking, which ranks agencies by their event-based turnover, did not change dramatically:

REVEALED: State of the Industry 2015 – Top 20 event agencies

In terms of the key agency trends, most agencies continue to upsize - 86% expanded their headcount in 2014 and 84% expect to expand further in 2015 - resulting in a talent gap as companies struggle to find the right people to fill an increasing number of vacancies, particularly at senior level.

A fifth (20%) of the 87 agencies surveyed and interviewed said that recruitment woes and finding and keeping talent are the biggest challenges for their business in 2015.

Pure Events managing director, Charlotte Wilson, says: "It's a nightmare. People who are very good communicators, good at relationship building and have a good understanding of locations in London and overseas, and who are able to execute on site at a very high level aren't easy to find.

"We have a specific brand image and everyone in my office reflects that. It isn't easy to find someone who is motivated, excited and driven by what they do."

In addition to investing in staff, there has been a significant increase in investment in new branding, be it a complete rebrand - for example, Universal World Events becoming Ashfield Meetings & Events last year and Logistik becoming Vista, or a more subtle identity refresh. Touch, Worldspan, The Appointment Group, Paragon and Inntel are among those who have refreshed their brands.

The growing trend towards globalisation continues, with a number of agencies expanding to new shores. Earlier this year, Noble Events opened an office in Dubai - its first outside the UK - following in the footsteps of Imagination and Sledge, who have both recently expanded into the emirate state.

Banks Sadler opened a China office in Shanghai in February, while Ashfield Meetings & Events opened its third US office, in California, and WRG opened a branch in Basel, Switzerland to target pharmaceutical clients.

However, recent news that WRG was scaling back in the Middle East and closing its Qatar office in April serves as a reminder as to how difficult it can be establishing a presence in overseas markets. "We launched in Qatar in 2008 and Abu Dhabi in 2011. We have established ourselves well in the Middle East and have a long heritage there," says WRG chief executive David Sharrock.

"But the Middle East market is quite a different place to do business in compared to the UK. We're still serving the region but with much more emphasis on our core sectors."

View and download the Top 20 Agencies list from C&IT's State of the Industry report here (PDF)


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