Set against a backdrop of 10.4 million total job openings and a record 4.3 million Americans quitting their jobs in August of 2021, marketing agencies, too, face a talent shortage. Nearly 35,000 advertising, PR, media, and related marketing services positions have remained unfilled since the start of the pandemic. The industry is so tied to the constant influx of new, affordable talent that one agency executive confided:

The ability to make our number this year is inextricably tied to the number of new employees we onboard.

Marketers have taken notice. Nearly 40% of marketing decision-makers indicate that optimizing their external marketing partnerships is among their top priorities, according to Forrester’s August 2021 CMO Pulse Survey. Scrutiny over partner talent resources came into full focus during this summer’s ANA Media Conference, where several marketers fretted over the lack of agency staffers to pitch new business, let alone work on the account once won.

The Urgency For Talent And Creativity Will Dominate Agencies In 2022

While agencies navigate formidable headwinds, the pandemic’s impact on agency talent and the creativity that agencies produce places them in full context. From layoffs to remote work to “the great resignation,” the agency industry faces an acute staff shortage of no less than 50,000 employees globally just when human ingenuity matters most to marketing. In 2022, the pendulum will swing back toward a new form of creativity delivered by a formidable construct of talent enhanced with technology in order to meet the CMO’s demand to do more with fewer marketing resources. Forrester’s annual predictions for agencies reveal that:

  • Intelligence-fueled creativity will shatter the agency/consultancy distinction. A new form of creative partner will emerge from the collision of precision and persuasion marketing strategies in 2022. Consultancies, like Droga’s Accenture or Nick Garrett’s Deloitte Digital, will accelerate their pursuit of creativity. Traditional agencies will aggressively pursue tech assets and data-driven capabilities, like Andy Main’s reformulation of Ogilvy toward consulting. Consequently, the “performance agency” label will evaporate in 2022 as agencies pair creative skill sets with media/data expertise, such as PMG’s opportunistic hiring of The Richards Group’s creative teams or iProspect’s merger with brand agency Vizuem. In 2022, this new type of marketing partner will enable CMOs to pursue intelligent creativity and produce multidimensional creative experiences that connect emotional, functional, and transactional marketing messages.
  • Agencies will bet big on creative-driven commerce. As B2C brands go digital-first, commerce is the “it” marketing solution. Hundreds rush to pursue e-commerce implementation, retail media, and marketplace consulting. In 2022, commerce practices will embrace creative differentiation or risk falling victim to digital sameness, just as digital experiences have in the past. Some agencies are already leaning into creativity for their commerce offerings: VMLY&R’s merger with Geometry, Huge’s launch of its XSF commerce stack, and Dept’s acquisition of BASIC represent a move toward fusing creativity in owned commerce implementations. The early solutions signal an exciting time in 2022, as agencies will bring creative campaigns to product launches on Amazon Marketplace; scale livestreaming in China, Europe, and the Americas; and finally make creativity relevant to category owners and traditionally B2B scenarios such as automotive.

These and more can be found in Predictions 2022: Agencies. Forrester clients can set up an inquiry to discuss agency predictions and trends here. Otherwise, contact me at with any questions.

To understand the major forces that will impact firms across all industries next year, download Forrester’s Predictions 2022 guide.