How the Guide Works

HOW THE GUIDE WAS COMPILED

Now in its fourth edition, the Marketing Services Guide lists leading specialists in the fields of affiliate marketing, online ad networks, web analytics and email, mobile and search marketing. We asked agencies to select their main area of business:

Ad networks Companies that resell ad inventory from a range of websites to other companies and agencies 
Affiliate networks Companies that develop or run affiliate marketing campaigns and related services.
Analytics providers Specialists in helping companies measure their web marketing. 
Email agencies Companies that develop or run email campaigns and related services. 
Mobile agencies Companies that develop or run mobile campaigns and related services.
Search agencies Companies that develop search marketing campaigns, both natural and paid, and related services.

This year we’ve made an important change by basing some of the financial rankings on the income, or gross profit, that companies earn from their given specialism. This brings the Marketing Services Guide into line with its sister publication, the Top 100 Interactive Agencies guide, as well as other tables published by Centaur and other publishing groups. But we also believe that, as the industry matures, for certain sectors turnover is becoming a less useful measure of what a company earns for its expertise. In search, for example, with Google having withdrawn agency remuneration, there’s less incentive for agencies to buy paid search on behalf of their clients. We expect to see agencies earn money from consultancy fees rather than commission and kickbacks.

Moving to income means levelling the playing field. Some search agencies maintain that the amount of paid search turnover flowing through their books is a very clear sign of how much faith clients have in them. Yet those agencies that focus on natural search don’t have their turnover bolstered by money that flows straight through the business. So on balance we believe that fee income, or gross profit, is a better measure of what a search agency’s expertise is worth.

The picture is more complicated for businesses that buy or sell media. The ad networks that sell inventory on behalf of publishing clients have healthy sales numbers, but they also have to pay commission to these publishers, plus other third-party costs such as ad serving. They argue that their net turnover from sales is the most valuable yardstick to judge them by. Likewise affiliate networks’ turnover is made up by what they charge clients for agreed actions. Each of these sales incurs a cost, which is what the network pays its affiliates. While the argument is finely balanced, for the purposes of this year’s guide, we accept that turnover is still a useful guide to the size of an ad network or an affiliate network, but we’ll keep the situation under review.

Many companies owned by international groups are unable to disclose financial information. As with previous years, the high proportion of US-owned analytics providers means this table is alphabetical rather than ranked. But of those companies that were able to this year, over three-quarters provided income figures. We believe this reflects a desire in the industry to adopt a useful benchmark, but we expect debate to continue. As the guide works to better reflect the industry, we hope companies will continue to support new media age in its attempt to provide readers with a dependable and meaningful guide to the most successful specialists in their chosen field.

new media age would like to thank advice given by Green Square Partners, operational and corporate finance advisors to the marcoms secotr. All editorial decisions are nma’s.