I finished the GITS story on the econsulting/interactive agency sector. I didn't have enough length to do the story I researched, so pieces of it are going to show up here. A big help in framing the story was Harley Manning, a longtime Forrester Research analyst. Manning got cut from the final edit on the piece, which was unfortunate. There aren't too many analysts covering the sector, or who've been around long enough to put some perspective on what's happened since the dotcom runup.
The big surprise in the reporting was that Advertising Age had named Sapient #2 Interactive Agency in this year's annual ranking of the top 50 Interactive Agencies. The report was published in the April-May time frame and rankled a few competitors that I talked to. Almost unanimously the CEOs and high level execs I spoke with discounted that Sapient was in the sector at all. Only one competitor that had fairly personal knowledge of the company's strategy in interactive, disagreed. Here are some sample remarks:
"No way is Sapient in our space… these guys only make things more interesting for us." CEO, large Interactive Agency
"Sapient is a solid firm, no question… really more of a mini-Accenture than anything else. Great for jobs in the $500k-$1M range, and an attractive alternative to hiring the big, big guys. But an interactive shop? Nah." CEO, small Interactive Agency
However, rounding out the perspective was Alan Osetek, VP Isobar US, who lobbed in this commentary while traveling in South Africa:
"Sapient is an interactive powerhouse to be reckoned with. They were a systems integrator, offshoring house up until about a year, year and a half ago. They've taken a turn to go after companies like Digitas and Isobar and build up their digital marketing capability. They've got about 1000 people in the US [doing this] and about 2000 in India now, a large, significant operation. They're a well-deserved #2."
Now. I called Ad Age to pry into how they arrived at Sapient's number and what they were counting for "Interactive Revenue." I spoke to Craig Endicott at Ad Age who told me the publication sends out a questionnaire and the companies submit their numbers. So, in essence, they accept what the companies submit to them. He told me, however, that Sapient did not respond last year at all to the survey. In the Agency Profiles Supplement, there is more detail on how they arrived at Sapient's number ($176 million). And via Sapient, interactive revenue is reportedly "marketing-related web development, including using the Internet as a medium" according to Ad Age.
So, there you have it. Undoubtedly this arena is where Sapient is interested in moving, but did Sapient deserve the #2 ranking? That is the question.