The State of marketing agencies in 2020

With 2020 being a census year, we thought now was as good a time as ever for performing a similar analysis for the marketing industry in 2020. The marketing industry is a vast industry and employs thousands of people across this country. We wanted to learn more about what our industry looks like in 2020.

To accomplish this, Digital Third Coast a digital marketing agency located in Chicago, recently analyzed more than 6,000 marketing agency business listings. We analyzed many fundamental business statistics including number of employees, age of agency, popular service offerings, hourly rates as well as gender and leadership dynamics within the marketing industry. Included in our analysis is a broad spectrum of marketing agencies. We focused on traditional marketing and advertising agencies as well as more modern digital agencies that focus on paid media, search engine optimization, digital PR and social media marketing. Let’s dive into some of the big takeaways from our analysis.

Number of employees

Our analysis showed that 77% of the 6,000 marketing agencies we analyzed currently employ between 10-40 employees. 18% of marketing agencies employ between 50-249 employees. 4% of marketing agencies employee between 250-999 workers. And finally, only 1% of marketing agencies employee over 1,000+ workers.

The average age of marketing agencies

The next part of the analysis looked at how old the average marketing agency was. 37% of all marketing agencies analyzed were between 10-19 years old. Listed below is the full breakdown of the average age of marketing agencies:
  • 0-4 years – 6% of all marketing agencies
  • 5-9 years – 24% of all marketing agencies
  • 10-19 years – 37% of all marketing agencies
  • 20-29 years – 18% of all marketing agencies
  • 30-39 years – 8% of all marketing agencies
  • 40-49 years – 3% of all marketing agencies
  • 50+ years – 3% of all marketing agencies

Top service offerings

The analysis found that the average number of services offered by most marketing agencies is 5. The top services offered include advertising, branding, SEO or search engine optimization, social media marketing and design services like graphic design and website design.

What is the hourly rate most agencies charge?

In 2020, most agencies charge by the hour as opposed to charging a flat fee or by the project. After analyzing all 6,000 agencies, we found that the average hourly rate for marketing agencies is $136. Included below is a breakdown of hourly rates for marketing agencies:
  • 60% of marketing agencies charge between $100-149 per hour
  • 18% of marketing agencies charge between $150-199 per hour
  • 11% of marketing agencies charge between $50-99 per hour
  • 10% of marketing agencies charge less than $50 per hour
  • 2% of marketing agencies charge between $200-300 per hour
Digital Third Coast recently analyzed more than 6,000 marketing agency business listings to learn more about the state of our industry in 2020. They analyzed fundamental business statistics including number of employees, age of agency, service offerings and hourly rates as well as gender and leadership dynamics within the marketing industry. Here's what they found: 77% of marketing agencies employee between 10-40 employees. The average hourly rate of all marketing agencies is $136. The average number of services offered is 5. Top services include advertising, branding, SEO, social and design. 83% of agencies have a male as the most senior employee. 31% of agencies have no women in upper management, while only 2% had no men.

As you can see the rate varies by company throughout the marketing industry with rates between $50 and $300 per hour.

Gender and Leadership

One of the more interesting and provoking parts of our analysis looked at gender and leadership. We were curious to see how many females were currently in leadership positions with their companies throughout the marketing industry. We wanted to see if it aligned with other industries. In 2019, a study found that almost 30% of senior management positions around the world were held by women. This number is even smaller if you look at females on the boards of Fortune 500 companies and even smaller again if you look at CEO’s on the Fortune 500 list.

Let’s take a look to see how the marketing industry is doing compared to the rest of the world. For this part of the analysis, we analyzed only 550 agencies that were based on the United States to see the gender of the most senior person working at the company and the ratio of women at the highest level of leadership at the marketing agency.

The analysis shows that over 80% of agencies, the most senior level employee is a man. Only 17% of marketing agencies had a woman as the most senior level employee. The percentage of women in upper management also was not very positive. We found that over 30% of all marketing agencies analyzed had not a single woman in upper management. In comparison, only 2% of marketing agencies had no men in upper management.

Listed below is a breakdown of the highest level of leadership throughout marketing agencies in America:
  • 32% had 1.5 to 3 times more men than women
  • 31% had all men at the highest level of leadership
  • 20% of agencies had equal representation at the highest level of leadership
  • 15% had 1.5 to 3 times more woman than men
  • Only 2% had all women at the highest level of leadership

Hero (header) images

The next part of the analysis looked at hero images. Hero images are the images at the top of an agency website. We wanted to see the types of images marketing agencies are using as the first thing a customer see’s when they enter their website. Essentially, we wanted to see how the marketing professionals are marketing themselves.

During our analysis we found some common themes among hero images and classified the hero images into 5 major categories:
  1. People
  2. Places
  3. Things
  4. Text and logos
  5. Portfolio work and case studies


People were the far most common hero images coming in at 26% of all hero images. From there 50% of people were stock models, 37% were members of their team, 8% were illustrated people and 5% we labeled as performers.

Things were the second most common hero images coming in at 21% of all hero images analyzed. The most common things were devices 21%, office furniture 8%, illustrated things 8%, animals 8%, light bulbs 5% and the final 36% were classified as other.

Places were the third most common hero images coming in at 20% of all hero images. The most common places include their office 40%, a picture of the city they are located in 30% and pictures of nature, also at 30%.

Text and logos, portfolio work and other made up the rest of the hero images. We did not further break down those categories in this analysis.

Flair and Taglines

The final part of the analysis looked at the different ways marketing agencies choose to identify themselves. We defined flair words as describer words that surrounded the business name. Popular examples of flair words are listed below:
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Big
  • Integrated
  • Strategic
  • Results
  • Point
  • Smart
  • American
  • Full
  • Fusion
  • Impact
  • North
  • Think
  • Visual
  • Black
  • Custom
  • Image
  • Launch
The tagline section of the analysis we had a lot of fun with. We wanted to see the different taglines marketing agencies use to describe themselves. We did not include all the taglines, but we have shared some of the more interesting taglines we came across during our analysis of over 6,000 agencies. See some of the more ridiculous taglines below:
  • Think like people
  • Time to say what we mean and show the results
  • MARKETING IS EVERTHING
  • WE CARE MORE ABOUT YOUR BRAND THAN YOU DO
  • NEVER BE FORGOTTEN
  • You Are Everything WE ARE ZERO
  • Turn your dreams to gold. That’s right. Gold!
  • The ideal is sell something
  • BREEDING HUMANLIKE IDEAS
  • We drive interaction. We are good.
  • WE ARE BOLD, AND BOLD ARE WE.
  • Search & Destroy
  • There’s nothing we can’t deliver
  • HAVE YOU BEEN CRAWLED LATELY?
To see our full analysis of over 6,000 marketing agencies, check out the link in the second paragraph.

Read next: Social Media Bottlenecks to Overcome in 2020

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