Here's the state of our industry in 2009, in the form of a Heat Chart, an idea I've borrowed from top Aussie ad blog Campaign Brief.
The vertical axis shows agency income, from the figures supplied by accountancy gurus Kingston Smith, and published in Campaign last week. Some might look a little off - for example, Y&R is at the top - but that's because these are group figures, so the Y&R figure might include things like their Direct and PR units. With that one caveat, this is an objective measure.
In contrast, the horizontal axis is entirely subjective. It's not based on any figures of awards won. It's purely my personal perception of how hot that agency is right now, creatively. (Not business performance, just quality of work).
I've excluded BBH from the chart, since it wouldn't be fair for me to sit in judgement on my homeboys and girls. But I think it's safe to say we would be somewhere in the top right quadrant - the 'big and good' area - or what you could call Powerhouses.
The bottom right hand corner - 'small and good' - shows today's Hotshops. There aren't many, are there? And BMB is growing so fast, it will surely soon be out of this niche.
In the north-west we have the Big Dumb Agencies. Again, quite sparsely populated. McCann has been on the uptick creatively, and Grey is improving dramatically, so the two bankers for this quadrant have let us down.
In the south-west we have the agencies which are small, and not currently setting the world on fire. If you work for one of these shops, I apologise. I admit that I have put you in the extreme cold, without actually knowing any of your work. On the other hand, the fact that I can't name a single one of your ads is not the best of signs. If you have done great work, please put me right.
That goes for every slot in the chart. If anyone thinks I've put an agency in the wrong place, feel free to say so in the comments. Back up your case with a couple of good examples and I'll be happy to admit I'm wrong, since that will give me an excuse to waste even more time mucking about moving these little boxes around.