Forrester Ranks Agencies’ Mobile Capabilities

Just as mobile has gotten more of marketers’ attention, Forrester has brought its evaluation methodology to agencies doing mobile.

The results are somewhat surprising. For example, no mobile specialists made the evaluation criteria, and top digital shops like R/GA are missing. Forrester ended up concluding that of nine U.S.-based agencies evaluated, SapientNitro and AKQA are currently leading the pack, followed closely by Ogilvy, TribalDDB and Razorfish.

The author of the report, Melissa Parrish, admitted that it offers “a narrow view of a wide array of service providers,” given the thousands of mobile marketing shops, technology providers and marketing-services companies now dedicated to mobile, but she said it was necessary to focus on a specific area of the market to ensure it compared apples to apples in the analysis.

Forrester narrowed the list of eligible agencies with fairly arbitrary criteria. Key factors in Forrester’s analysis included strategy, execution, measurement, market presence, and revenue during the fourth quarter of last year.

The words “market presence” and “revenue” seem to indicate many smaller specialist shops were knocked out. Forrester said it couldn’t disclose (by law) the revenue threshold it used.

Even so, there appear to be some well-respected agencies missing from the report.

“Sometimes an agency will opt not to participate,” Parrish said in an email. “Sometimes we’ll hear about this decision directly; other times they simply choose not return the screening questionnaires.”

As a result, it’s perhaps wise to take the verdict with a grain of salt. Even the companies that did choose to participate did so to varying degrees, Forrester said. SapientNitro gave its full participation — which included filling out surveys and disclosing other data about its business, while Possible Worldwide — which came ninth in the list — did not. It’s perhaps unfair to judge agencies’ relative capabilities without comparable information from each.

SapientNitro, which lead the pack in Forrester’s estimations, was applauded for its tendency to push its clients creatively and its strong development and execution team. The firm handles mobile strategy, apps and marketing campaigns for brands including AT&T, Samsung, Coca-Cola and Motorola. It also brings a more experienced mobile management team to the table, Parrish wrote.

AKQA, meanwhile, showed strengths in innovation and was billed a good choice for a brand “looking to make a splash in mobile.” Last year it developed a branded application for Heineken, for example, which enables users to predict in-game events during soccer games and compete against friends to see whose forecasts are more accurate. On the flip side, it could benefit from holding back on showing off its cutting edge work and focusing on its work for less adventurous clients, the report said.

Bringing up the rear on Forrester’s rankings were iCrossing, VML, Rosetta and Possible Worldwide. According to Parrish, their inclusion in the second-tier of agencies it evaluated didn’t necessarily make them ill-equipped, just less well equipped than those named ahead of them.

And it would appear Little League rules are in effect, as everyone is ultimately a winner.

“Just being included means you’re already a top performer,” she wrote in a blog post.

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