- Every year, billions in advertising spend change hands as companies choose new agencies to manage their advertising.
- 2021 has been a particularly busy year, with consultants helping marketing giants like Coca-Cola and Facebook choose new agencies.
- Insider has identified 13 major consulting firms working behind the scenes to decide who will win the case.
- Visit Insider’s Companies section for more stories.
This article was originally published in March and has been updated.
Advertisers will spend approximately $1 trillion on global advertising by 2024 and will hire ad agencies to manage that spending.
A category of business called management consultants or research consultants plays a quiet but powerful role in this process. They act as gatekeepers, deciding which agencies can compete for advertisers’ business.
There’s a lot at stake. Search companies can charge big advertisers between $150,000 and $350,000 for each search for six to nine months, said Tom Denford, co-CEO of search firm ID Comms.
It was a busy time for these companies. Consultancy R3 Worldwide, which tracks agency searches globally, had more than 6,000 in 2020, up from 5,600 in 2018 and around 4,500 in 2017.
In a major industry deal, UTA also paid $125 million for MediaLink, the best-known search company, in December.
The field is dominated by a few companies, but competition is heating up as former advertising executives enter the fray. Some insiders expect the consulting giants to become more active in the field as well; for example, KPMG hired a former Flock Associates executive to expand its marketing consultancy into the United States in early 2021. Research firms also compete with marketers’ own sourcing services, which many use to save time and money.
Agencies, on the other hand, spend thousands of dollars winning contracts with advertisers every year and have to keep up with consultancies and know which brands to feature.
Insider identified these top 13 companies, listed in alphabetical order, based on existing and original reports.