New business reviews bounced back globally in 2021, increasing by 53.5% on the back of major creative and media reviews from clients like Coca-Cola, Unilever, and Mercedes-Benz. According to new business data from independent marketing consultancy, R3, the double-digit growth is reflected in Europe (60.7%), and Asia Pacific (44.1%) while less revenue was on the table in the US (21.2%).

However, while the number of reviews increased, the total revenue from reviews increased only 9%, reflecting more and more ‘snack sized’ opportunities. “Increasingly, the AOR is dying and the smartest agencies are pivoting their services and their talent mix to reflect this,” said Paull. “For every consolidation to a holding company, there are another four or five other clients looking to build a more flexible roster and bring new agencies into the tent.”

WPP wins on volume, Havas makes the biggest gains

Thanks to the estimated $600m+ new business windfall that WPP secured with a stake in Coca-Cola’s global creative account, the holding company almost tripled its year-on-year revenue growth in 2021. However, the leader in growth for 2021 was Havas, who increased its year-on-year revenue by 11.4% as a result of wins across brands like Unilever, De Beers, and Dolce & Gabbana. Publicis Groupe (5.4%) and the newly formed Stagwell Group (5.3%) followed in third and fourth place in pace of growth.

“New business in 2021 was characterized by a few massive accounts, which can only be served by agencies big enough to flex and customize their offerings,” said Greg Paull, Co-founder and Principal at R3. “Clients are looking for more bespoke solutions, and the better an agency is able to adapt, the better chance they have of taking the business home.”

US marketers play conservative, Europe invests in change

WPP and R/GA led Creative new business wins in the US in 2021. A significant gap exists, however, between win rates and value of accounts with WPP tied with BBDO to secure the second-lowest number of accounts won. This suggests that even though the number of reviews have risen overall, most agencies are battling it out for mid-size and small accounts. This trend is consistent in US media. Even with an 8.4% increase in volume, the value of media reviews in the US decreased in 2021 by 1.7%. Europe experienced the inverse, with Creative and Media revenue three times the total number of accounts won.

China remains cautious as winds change

Ogilvy and Mindshare dominated Creative and Media new business wins across Asia and China in 2021. Though Asia Pacific maintained robust growth with a 44.1% increase in value on a 4% increase in new business volume, the focus for many marketers in the region is China, as the country’s marketing landscape have kept new business activities in the negatives. In 2021, the volume of new business accounts awarded decreased 6.4%, with value decreasing by 0.2%. New regulations and crackdowns on influencers, events, publishing, and gaming are some reasons that have given marketers pause.