Industry Updates

What communications agencies can learn from ICOM’s latest survey

30 Nov 2011

ICOM is an independent agency network with 85+ agencies in 50+ countries, covering 95% of the world’s markets.  They conduct an annual survey in May of every year, amongst their global base of agencies to determine new trends, strategies and innovations.

This year’s survey shows that agencies are investing in technology and finding new ways to grow their business. With gratitude to our ICOM network I’d like to share some findings from the survey.

  • Just over half of respondents believe that the current environment of volatility will be the template for a new way of doing business
  • One-third of respondents believe market conditions will stabilize and return to a more steady economic environment
  • 8 out of 10 respondents believe that current conditions are making more demands on employees and the amount of time required for work
  • Just over half of respondents believe employees are more concerned about the work-life balance than in the past.
The survey also found that agencies are investing in technology––everything from systems and software, to people resources that are allowing them to expand their digital offerings to clients. At the same time, agencies are saving costs by getting more out of less people resources, by skilling up to be more proficient at multiple skills.

Agencies are taking the following steps to find the right balance between protecting their bottom line against a possible repeat recession and being prepared for growth, the most frequently cited steps are:
  • Areas related to people
  • Maintaining conservative employment levels
  • Retaining the best talent
  • Cautious permanent hiring–more use of freelance talent
  • More communication and training to keep staff informed and motivated.
Areas related to expenses
  • Extreme vigilance overall about margins, pricing and expenses
  • Continually improving efficiency while delivering the same or higher levels of service through better productivity
  • Quarterly reviews of business performance vs. plan
  • Strong control on credit
  • Requiring payments on all projects
  • Mandatory three quotes when using external suppliers
Business development activities
  • Aggressively pursuing organic growth and assuring good client relationships
  • Targeting industry-leading clients in new business efforts
  • Recommending more below-the-line solutions and digital to clients that have been forced to cut budgets
  • Applying more stringent criteria for new clients while seeking to increase the number of clients to better spread agency risk
New services
  • Investing in new technology
  • Offering new services especially public relations and digital
  • Better integration of all services.

Gullan&Gullan is proud to be the only South African representative of the ICOM agencies network, and like many of our agency partners, our plans for 2012 are to continue to improve on existing digital capabilities all while providing quality, integrated 360 solutions.  Of paramount importance to us is to show value to our clients in terms of return on investment.