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Digital Agency Census: the most competitive specialisms from British agencies

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By Sam Bradley | Senior Reporter

April 29, 2022 | 4 min read

Digital agencies in the UK have benefited from a boom in advertiser spend over the last year. According to the latest IAB UK ad spend report, 2021 saw digital advertiser spending rise 41%, to £23.5bn.

But what products and services are attracting this influx of cash? It’s a question our research team set out to answer with The Drum’s Digital Agency Census 2022. They surveyed hundreds of agencies about the kinds of products and services they offer, as well as which ones they emphasize when they go to market.

Their findings shine a light on the priorities of digital agencies in the UK, as well as potential opportunities for nimble outfits.

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The Drum’s UK Digital Agency Census has been released for 2022 / The Drum

What digital capabilities do agencies offer?

We asked hundreds of agencies in the census which digital specialisms they offered clients. The most common capabilities supplied were web design (64%) and search engine optimization (SEO, 62%), with social media management and strategy (56%), customer experience (CX, 49%) and e-commerce (49%) following.

37% of agencies offer media planning, and 38% media buying services. 24% of agencies offered influencer management and strategy, while just 14% of UK digital agencies offered expertise in augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) production. The latter finding suggests that AR and VR production is still a nascent sector – and a market with room to grow.

How are agencies specializing today?

Most of the agencies in our survey (55%) identified as full-service digital agencies, meaning they carry a full-fat offering of digital products and services. Of the primarily specialist agencies in our sample, 11% primarily provided web design services to clients, 10% were search engine optimization (SEO) specialists and 6% focused on digital design and branding work.

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Interestingly, just 3% of our sample said they specialized in CX work, 1% said they primarily specialized in social and just 2% of our sample specialized in e-commerce capabilities – perhaps reflecting the priority many full-service agencies have placed on developing these capabilities and the transition away from dedicated shops in those sectors.

A further 9% of our sample specialized solely in media and planning work.

How big are UK digital agencies?

The Digital Agency Census also surveyed agencies on their headcount, giving an insight into the average size of a digital shop in Britain. 23% of agencies in our survey employed less than 25 staff, 25% had between 25 and 49 staff, and 26% employed up to 99.

17% had between 100 and 249 staff, while a minority of 4% had 250-499 staff. 5% of the agencies in our sample had over 500 employees.

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