Independent Agency Census Agencies Agency Models

British indie agencies beat Covid to post revenue growth of over 20% in 2021


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

May 26, 2022 | 3 min read

The Drum’s Independent Agency Census, released today, has revealed the best-performing indie agency businesses in Britain. But what of the health of the independent sector at large?

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The Drum's annual survey of indie agencies in the UK is back / The Drum

Our survey polled independent agencies in the UK representing almost £700m in annual revenue and approximately 6,600 agency staff spread across the country. We explored their financial performance over the course of the 2021 financial year, as the sector enjoyed a significant bounceback from the impacts of coronavirus in 2020.

You can discover which agencies performed best in our sample by exploring the Census here, but the project also showed how the indie agency sector of the advertising industry coped last year.

Collectively, our sample brought in £689,091,804 in revenue during the last financial year, a 21.1% increase on their turnover the previous year, with an average income of £6.5m. They employed 6,681 staff across their operations; the average headcount for indie agencies in our sample was 63.

The stats suggest the indie agency scene managed to bear the knocks of Covid, and even thrive during the rush of digital marketing spending that followed. The bidding war for agency group M&C Saatchi (soon to lose its own indie status, once its deal with Next Fifteen has been finalized) shows the value of strong indie performers in the UK.

For independent media buying and planning agencies, which bring in much larger billings due to the nature of the sector (relative to other specialisms), the average revenue was £44.9m. Indie media agencies raised their revenue on average 10.5% last year, with an average turnover growth of £4.7m.

With relatively small staff footprints, this group of agencies has a high turnover-to-headcount ratio; on average, each employee at the indie media agencies we surveyed brought in almost £500,000 in revenue each year. Talon Outdoor was a particular high-performer, enjoying a 2021 revenue of just under £300m with a team of 161.

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