PR Research

Digital agencies look set to attract most client support

Date: 11 May 2011 14:54

According to the latest Pearlfinders Index, which analyses interviews with more than 5,000 marketing decision-makers each year, marketers are now prioritising digital projects.

Most considered service categories:

Source: Pearlfinders

Pearlfinders managing director Anthony Cooper explains that this is the first time digital agencies have taken the lead in the last year: “For the first time in 12 months, we've seen more new business opportunities for digital agencies than consumer PR shops – budget-holders are prioritising projects with the potential for rapid and tangible ROI, such as e-commerce, display advertising, smartphone optimisation and search marketing.”

Most considered agency skills by clients 2010/2011:


Source: Pearlfinders

As many PR agencies consider that the digital space is theirs, this is not bad news, but it is not all good news either. As Cooper says: “There's an ongoing battle for ownership of social media projects taking place between digital and PR specialists, as social continues to account for a greater proportion of both consumer PR and digital marketing budgets. The greatest risk for PR agencies is that social media budgets get diverted to in-house resources or the management of social platforms is commoditised to technology-focused digital shops."

For those PR agencies that offer online services, Cooper says that Pearlfinders predicts most growth will be driven by corporate transaction work: “While the role of online PR in business-to-consumer marcoms and even corporate business development has been well documented, its central role in supporting mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and corporate restructuring is now evident. We identified 30 online PR/social media projects last quarter that came about due to M&A or corporate restructuring activity. More generally, we have identified an uplift in corporate and business-to-business comms activity: last quarter, 26 per cent of PR opportunities were targeting a business-to-business audience, whereas the figure was 23 per cent last year."

Those agencies wondering where their next brief will be coming from, the Pearlfinders Index suggests that the retail sector is likely to be asking for more PR support. Cooper says: "When it comes to the industries with the greatest propensity to seek comms agencies, we anticipate the retail sector will see an increased demand for a whole spectrum of PR services, as the stronger players look to reassure investors they can continue to deliver dividends as others in the sector deliver profit warnings."


Pearlfinders speaks to more than 5,000 marketing decision-makers each year across all industries to uncover areas of opportunity for every marketing services discipline. The Pearlfinders Index collects and analyses data from these interviews, allowing it to monitor key characteristics of the marketing services sector.

From each interview, Pearlfinders is able to record which agency disciplines are currently being reviewed, scheduled or seeing increased investment. From the 1,250 conversations with decision-makers in Q1 2011, 158 were considering their consumer PR arrangements (12.6 per cent).


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