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Ad Age just published our 75th annual Agency Report, so we took a deep dive into the archives to see how rankings of agencies and agency companies have changed over time.

The biggest U.S. ad media in 1945 were newspapers and magazines. The biggest U.S. ad media in 2019 are the internet and TV. Through all the advertising and marketing tumult, some of the biggest ad agencies from 1945 are still major players today.

A brief (sort of) history of agencies

Big deals, big ideas and an 'odious little shit'

Check out Ad Age’s agency timeline. This is our 75th annual Agency Report, so we dug through the archives to see just how the agency business has (and has not) changed.

AdAge.com/agencyreport75th

Name that agency

Ad Age published its first Agency Report in 1945, ranking agencies based on results in 1944. Among the 25 biggest agencies in 1944, just six agency names or abbreviated names exist in 2019.

Then Now
Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn Omnicom’s BBDO
Campbell-Ewald Co. Interpublic’s Campbell Ewald
Foote, Cone & Belding Interpublic’s FCB
McCann-Erickson Interpublic’s McCann
J. Walter Thompson Co. Merged in 2018 to form WPP’s Wunderman Thompson
Young & Rubicam Merged in 2018 to form WPP’s VMLY&R

 

 

World’s biggest agency companies

How Ad Age Agency Report’s rankings have changed since 1985, one year before the formation of Omnicom and arrival of Martin Sorrell as WPP’s CEO and two years before Maurice Levy became CEO of Publicis. The scale has changed. Interpublic was the world’s biggest agency company in 1985 with revenue of $707 million. No. 1 in 2018: WPP, with revenue of $20.8 billion.

Rank 1985 2018
1 Interpublic WPP
2 Saatchi & Saatchi Co. (split into two companies: Saatchi & Saatchi, bought by Publicis in 2000, and Cordiant Communications Group, bought by WPP in 2003) Omnicom
3 JWT Group (bought by WPP in 1987) Publicis
4 Young & Rubicam (bought by WPP in 2000) Interpublic
5 Ogilvy (bought by WPP in 1989) Dentsu

 

 

World’s biggest ad agencies

How Ad Age Agency Report rankings have (and haven’t) changed.

1945
First Report

Rank Based on results in 1944
1 J. Walter Thompson Co.
(merged in 2018 to form WPP’s Wunderman Thompson)
2 Young & Rubicam
(merged in 2018 to form WPP’s VMLY&R)
3 N.W. Ayer & Son
(dissolved in 2002 into what is now Publicis Groupe’s Publicis)
4 Foote, Cone & Belding
(now Interpublic’s FCB)
4 McCann-Erickson
(now Interpublic’s McCann)
6 Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn
(now Omnicom’s BBDO)
7 Ruthrauff & Ryan
(successor Erwin, Wasey, Ruthrauff & Ryan bought by Interpublic in 1963; folded into other Interpublic agencies in 1970s)
8 Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample
(now Publicis’ Saatchi & Saatchi)
9 Biow Co.
(closed in 1956)
9 Compton Advertising
(now Publicis’ Saatchi & Saatchi)
9 D’Arcy Advertising Co.
(evolved into D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, which closed in 2002)

1969
25th Report

Rank Based on results in 1968
1 J. Walter Thompson Co.
(merged in 2018 to form WPP’s Wunderman Thompson)
2 McCann-Erickson
(now Interpublic’s McCann)
3 Young & Rubicam
(merged in 2018 to form WPP’s VMLY&R)
4 Dentsu
(Dentsu Inc.)
5 Ted Bates & Co.
(divvied up among WPP agencies in 2003)
6 Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn
(now Omnicom’s BBDO)
7 Foote, Cone & Belding
(now Interpublic’s FCB)
8 Leo Burnett Co.
(now Publicis’ Leo Burnett)
9 Doyle Dane Bernbach
(now Omnicom’s DDB)
10 Grey Advertising
(now WPP’s Grey)

1994
50th Report

Rank Based on results in 1993
1 Dentsu
(Dentsu Inc.)
2 McCann-Erickson
(now Interpublic’s McCann)
3 J. Walter Thompson Co.
(merged in 2018 to form WPP’s Wunderman Thompson)
4 Euro RSCG Worldwide
(now Havas Creative, part of Vivendi’s Havas)
5 BBDO Worldwide
(now part of Omnicom)
6 Hakuhodo
(now Hakuhodo DY Holdings’ Hakuhodo)
7 Grey Advertising
(now WPP’s Grey)
8 Lintas Worldwide
(now Interpublic’s MullenLowe)
9 Leo Burnett Co.
(now Publicis’ Leo Burnett)
10 DDB Needham Worldwide
(now Omnicom’s DDB)

2019
75th Report

Rank Based on results in 2018
1 Dentsu
(Dentsu Inc.)
2 DDB Worldwide
(Omnicom)
3 BBDO Worldwide
(Omnicom)
4 Hakuhodo
(Hakuhodo DY Holdings)
5 TBWA Worldwide
(Omnicom)
6 McCann
(Interpublic)
7 Ogilvy
(WPP)
8 Wunderman Thompson
(WPP)
9 Publicis Worldwide
(Publicis)
10 Grey
(WPP)

AD AGE AGENCY REPORT 2019

Available now to Ad Age Datacenter subscribers

Ad Age Datacenter subscribers get:

  • Database of the world’s 25 biggest agency companies including agencies, networks and profiles
  • Expanded agency rankings by discipline, downloadable in Excel
  • Revenue for more than 500 agencies and networks
     

Ad Age Datacenter subscription info:
AdAge.com/datathatleads
customerservice@adage.com
877-320-1721