Independent Agency Census Agencies Agency Models

Where in the UK are the country’s best independent agencies?


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

May 26, 2022 | 5 min read

While network agencies have hubs in the UK’s major cities, much of the country’s regional agency scene is made up of independent agencies. So, where are the best-performing indies in the UK?


The Drum’s new Independent Agency Census has revealed new stats about regional agency performance / The Drum

The Drum’s Independent Agency Census collected data on the financial performance and client ratings of indie shops up and down the UK. With it, we can see which regions host the most indie agencies – and which regions are home to the best-performing ones, too.

The biggest regions, for agencies and their employees, were the capital and the north of England. London accounted for almost half (49.5%) of all the employees in our sample, while Yorkshire accounted for 14.8%, the North West hosted 9.3% and the South East 8.1%. London agencies not only made up the bulk of the agencies in our sector-wide sample (42%), their share of employees shows they’re typically bigger than rivals elsewhere – and, as we’ll see, bring in more revenue too.

That distribution is reflected in the amount of revenue brought in by the agencies in each region; indie agencies in the Greater London area accounted for almost 60% of the revenue taken in 2021 by our entire sample, while the South East accounted for another 10%. The North West and Yorkshire, accounting for major regional hubs such as Manchester and Leeds, together made up almost another 20%.

Region % Revenue
East Midlands 1.9%
East of England 1.4%
Greater London 57.3%
North East 1.3%
North West 7.3%
Northern Ireland 1.7%
Scotland 0.1%
South East 10.1%
South West 2.9%
Wales 1.9%
West Midlands 1.6%
Yorkshire & The Humber 12.3%

Below, we can see a similar distribution in the average revenue brought in to an agency, on average, by each staff member.

Region Average revenue per head
East Midlands £65,333
East of England £68,068
Greater London £125,688
North East £58,862
North West £83,385
Northern Ireland £93,984
Scotland £56,574
South East £126,001
South West £83,639
Wales £128,253
West Midlands £77,547
Yorkshire & The Humber £77,846

While not surprising, it suggests that the capital is still remarkably dominant in the indie agency scene. London agencies have access to more international brands – and therefore larger budgets – than their counterparts further north and west, while their larger staff headcounts help them service more clients overall.

However, looking at the collective average turnover growth of London agencies versus the other regional groupings suggests their head start might be eroding. The Greater London agencies in our sample collectively enjoyed 17.7% revenue growth in 2021, behind the East Midlands (36.22%), Yorkshire (30.45%), the North West (21.3%) and the South East, which saw growth of 53.42%.

That gels with findings from our earlier Digital Agency Census, which suggested that northern English agencies had particularly benefitted from remote working and client willingness to look beyond traditional agency rosters in the wake of the pandemic.

Find out the state of the UK’s indie agency nation in The Drum’s Independent Agency Census.

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