I’m excited to share that “The Forrester Wave™: Performance Marketing Agencies, Q3 2019” is live. This is the newest iteration of one of Forrester’s longest-running Wave evaluations: search marketing agencies. We first evaluated search marketing agencies in 2006, led by my colleague Shar VanBoskirk. Since then, we’ve done six Waves from 2006 to 2017.

In 2017, we found that search agencies had reached peak maturation and marketers’ needs were changing — they were looking to consolidate their agency rosters and wanted an agency to cover more than one channel. Today, many marketers use agencies for multiple digital channels. As such, we retired our search marketing agencies Wave and instead evaluated performance marketing agencies across a variety of digital channels.

Performance marketing agencies help marketers deliver ads across digital channels like search, social, and programmatic display to reach consumers at the right moment in the right context. These agencies are known for tying investments in digital channels back to business goals — and clients hold them accountable to performance metrics like return on ad spend (ROAS), ROI, conversions, and revenue.

Long-time Forrester clients may notice one thing that has not dramatically changed over the years: the players. In our 2019 evaluation, we studied 12 agencies — 360i, 3Q Digital, DAC Group, GroupM Performance, iCrossing, iProspect, Jellyfish, Merkle, Performics, Rise Interactive, Tinuiti, and Wpromote — and scored them on current offering, strategy, and market presence. These are agencies that saw marketers’ needs shifting and wisely expanded their capabilities to match.

Overall, we found these important areas of differentiation in our inaugural Wave on performance agencies:

  • Multichannel planning. We looked at how well agencies were able to plan out a performance marketing strategy across channels. This is an area where we saw the most differentiation between agencies and where agencies can flex their strategic muscles. We found that agencies that did deep research into consumer interests and motivations were most impressive in putting together multichannel performance marketing campaigns.
  • Strategy. Another notable area of differentiation was each agency’s vision, execution road map, and go-to-market strategy. Some agencies articulated stronger visions, had more innovative road maps, and clearer go-to-market approaches. Strategy leaders had more ambitious visions for expanding performance marketing beyond the channels evaluated here, for example. This is a key area for marketers to look at when evaluating an agency, as it shows how well the agency’s culture will fit your own.
  • Proprietary tech. A final area to note is proprietary technology. You will not find a criterion that scores agencies on their proprietary technologies because marketers are buying strategic resources, not technology, from an agency. We couldn’t help but notice, however, that many agencies are investing in proprietary technology to automate laborious tasks for their employees and deliver client-ready dashboards for campaign monitoring. This is an area marketers should watch — and decide if the agency’s proprietary technology will help deliver better performance.

To see how the evaluated agencies stack up, Forrester clients can find the full report here.

If you’re interested in digging deeper into the findings of the evaluation or want to discuss performance marketing agencies more broadly, please schedule an inquiry.