2016 was a year of division. The suspicion that brands were postponing major marketing decisions before the referendum was confirmed by the 82% increase in the number of agency reviews occurring in the latter half of 2016. But the nature of the reviews also points to a search for meaning and direction of marketing strategy post Leave. We’ve also seen over the last six months polarisation in briefs for digital shops, with budgets increasingly fragmenting and smaller digital agencies having to battle for projects they would not have considered pitching for a year ago. Conversely, digital agencies promoting a more consultative proposition (beyond lip-service to this most sought after credential) have seen much larger business transformation projects on offer, but are now facing tougher pitches against the traditional management consultancies and tech giants that have bought into digital marketing services.

One of the reasons for scrutinising The Pearlfinders Index is its sector predictions for the year ahead. From Pearlfinders and our own evidence, we're confident the FMCG sector will remain fruitful, particularly given the significant increase in agency opportunities we've seen over the last six months. Rising food prices bring greater challenges for brands having to justify shelf space. Many of our clients are already helping FMCG brands to be more innovative and build loyalty, such as a digital shopper platform that allows brands to offer direct promotions to consumers without involving retailers.

Whilst it’s still tricky to navigate the budgets at the high street retailers, there are more clothing brands investing in agency support. Whilst opportunities and budgets are often focused on social and content, there is strong evidence that brands like adidas and Nike are looking for different techniques to engage audiences, although worth noting that gimmicks such as VR is still low down the shopping list for most marketers.

Finally, there’s evidence that professional services companies, a far more niche sector, are increasingly looking for agency support, evidenced by the reviews uncovered by Pearlfinders for Q1 2017. Quite ironic, given that some of them are acquiring agencies, but alongside the seemingly resolute financial services sector, definitely worth targeting.

You can download a PDF of the full Pearlfinders Global Index here.