New research into global creative agency growth plans and challenges

Are marcoms agency growth plans really building value? New global survey commissioned by SI Partners reveals agencies’ growth strategies and challenges.

The marcoms sector is in flux, growing on ever-more global lines and evolving at dizzying pace with the fast-changing digital economy.

This digital disruption offers opportunities for agency leaders to grow their business and build value. However, it also presents pressing challenges, including the need to answer potentially existential strategic questions, and the need to adapt to meet fast-moving demand for new capabilities.

The findings of the SI Partners’ Path to Growth Survey, our brand-new research involving 600 marcoms agencies in every major national and regional market, offers detailed insights into exactly how leaders are striving to maximise agency value as they pursue growth opportunities. It also reveals the approaches they are taking to manage the challenges that hold them back.


Creative agency growth strategies

Common themes and concerns emerge from the research:

SI Partners path to growth survey
  • Virtually all agencies in the survey are planning for growth against almost every metric: revenues, client size, international presence, service and product offering.
  • Leaders see great opportunity in two broad strategic directions in particular: expansion into overseas markets, as well as diversification into new product and service areas.
  • Many agencies do not yet have a plan as to exactly how they will realise these opportunities.
  • They face stiff competition for talent in rapidly emerging areas of specialism as well as for the senior talent needed to help shape and execute successful growth.

The survey does more than reveal how agencies see the world. It also holds insights for those agency leaders that are asking ‘How can I ensure agency growth?’ or ‘How can I make my marcoms business attractive to buyers?’


For example, a common factor threatening to hold agencies back in every market is an ambitious and broad approach to growth that pursues simultaneous expansion into new geographies and diversification into new disciplines. In many cases this suggests the lack of a clear tactical roadmap for achieving the big strategic objectives. Venturing into new markets and building new product offerings offers multiple risks. Executing on these successfully requires careful planning but many admit they have no clear plan. More than half (61%) don’t have a plan to achieve global expansion and 59% don’t have a plan to deliver on their diversification aspirations.


Building agency value

The insights from the survey can help agencies evaluate and adapt their strategic priorities, better tailoring them for profitable growth and ultimately helping them build greater enterprise value. They can also help agencies more closely align their strategies and objectives with those of potential growth partners.


The survey highlights the importance of:

  • a broader and deeper talent pool as a strategic priority
  • avoiding broad growth plans that could magnify risk
  • understanding the complexities, risks and importance of timing overseas expansion before embarking on it 

Download the SI Partners’ Path to Growth Survey for the full findings.