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Gender pay gap widens at more than half of UK ad agencies

The median gender pay gap has worsened at more than half of the UK's advertising and marketing agencies in the last year, analysis by The Drum has revealed.

The extent of inequality between men and women's pay across the UK economy has been laid bare for the second year running, as businesses published figures detailing the gender pay gap for 2018. Despite some progress, the advertising industry has not fared well.

All UK firms with more than 250 employees were legally required to report their gender pay figures by midnight 4 April. Companies that missed the deadline —such as What Car?, Autocar and Campaign publisher Haymarket, OMD EMEA and Maxus Communications — may face legal action. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said it plans to bring enforcement proceedings against all companies that missed the deadline.

The Drum has investigated the mass of data released by over 10,000 companies across the UK and pulled out the figures most relevant for the marketing and media industries.

Below, you'll find the ad shops and media companies with the largest median pay gaps in favour of men. When it comes to UK ad agencies, 28 actually saw their gaps increase over the past 12 months, while 16 got closer to achieving gender pay parity. In between, only one agency gap stayed stagnant, and five had no 2017 data for compassion.

The national median pay gap saw little change, closing from 18.4% in 2017-18, to 17.1% in 2018-19. However, the gap at all UK advertising and marketing agencies got worse, widening 1.1%.


The gender pay gap at several of the largest networks got wider in the last year.

At WPP, the median pay gap increased by 0.3%, while Dentsu's gender pay gap increased by 3.5%.

As with last year's figures, WPP agencies reported some of the highest gender pay gaps in favour of men - with J Walter Thomspon reporting a 38.3% gap, AMV BBDO reporting 31.8% and Grey reporting 31%. The gender pay gap at JWT closed 6.4% in the last 12 months, while AMV's also narrowed by 5.7%.

WPP chief executive Mark Read admitted that the holding giant had "to do better" and said it was "committed to promoting more women within the organisation". He also noted that the UK government's demand for transparency was forcing businesses like his own to take action.

"It's probably helpful that these things are made public as it forces us to address the issue and look at it more than we would have done," he revealed last month.

Despite Read's praise of the strategy, a report issued from consultancy found that some firms aren't being as open.

It said that 33% of organisations are failing to provide links to their gender pay gap reports, as stipulated by the government guidelines. According to Innes Miller, chief commercial officer at, organisations that fail to include a link are sending out the message that the reporting itself it "simply a compliance excercise".

"It reflects poorly among current employees, prospective employees, customers and investors who are looking for a commitment and a clear understanding of how the organisation plans to achieve greater equality," he added.

Karen Blackett, UK country manager for WPP, said: "We need to increase the pace of change to improve gender balance at the very highest leadership levels by focusing on programmes that create a stronger female talent pipeline."

Rival network Publicis Groupe reported mixed progress in its efforts to pay female staff fairly.

Annette King, chief executive at Publicis Groupe UK, said: "The simple truth is that we are on a journey, there will always be room for improvement and it’s essential we talk, review and redress how we are going to embrace a better and more transformative workplace."

AgencyPay gap % (2018-19)Pay gap % (2017-18)Pay gap difference
J Walter Thomson38.344.7-6.4
WPP 20053432.81.2
AMV BBDO31.837.5-5.7
The Mill3127.23.8
DDB UK2734.2-7.2
Iris Nation25223
BBH Partners2426-2
Publicis Healthcare Communications23.2--
McCann-Erickson Advertising23.1167.1
McCann-Erickson Central22.721.61.1
VCCP Group22.4202.4
Ogilvy & Mather21.324-2.7
Havas Media20.726-5.3
Publicis Ltd20.5--
Hogarth Worldwide2022-2
Mediabrands Ltd19.8--
Kantar UK18.716.91.8
Starcom Worldwide18.712.66.1
Dentsu Aegis London18.314.53.8
Mindshare Media UK17.722.2-4.5
Essence Global16.7--
McCann Manchester16.615.90.7
WPP Brands (UK)*16.314.61.7
McCann Health Medicine15.519.2-3.7
Zenith UK15.113.31.8
Mediacom North14.915.7-0.8
Tag Europe13.818.6-4.8
PHD Media11.32.58.8
Creative Lynx990
BD Network8.715.2-6.5
Saatchi & Saatchi Group7.76.71
OMD Group7.24.42.8
Mediacom Holdings6.511.1-4.6
Dentsu Aegis Manchester5.51.83.7
Creo Retail Marketing4.7-5.710.4
CGF Marketing Services3.80.43.4
Oliver Marketing0.312.5-12.2
Kantar Media UK-0.4-12.712.3
Hill & Knowlton-2.4-3.91.5

*WPP Brands (UK) is the name of Y&R.


The gender pay gap at media companies across the UK got better on the whole, closing -2% on average, and getting smaller at the majority of the companies featured in The Drum's sample.

The companies with the widest gaps between men and women's pay were specialist publishers Wilmington, The Economist, and Channel Four television. The gap at Channel 5, previously just 2.1%, widened by 10.6% in the last year, while NBC Universal saw the least improvement in the sample, with the median gap at the broadcaster widening 11.2%.

Newspaper publisher Newsquest - which operates titles such as The Herald - saw one of the biggest improvements of any company in the country, going from a 7% median pay gap last year to a -82% gap in favour of female employees.

CompanyPay gap % (2018-19)Pay gap % (2017-18)Pay gap difference
Wilmington Plc34.836.6-1.8
Economist Newspaper Ltd29.229.5-0.3
Channel Four Television23.324.2-0.9
Telegraph Media Group22.723.4-0.7
Conde Nast Publications21.923.3-1.4
ITV Services20.521.9-1.4
Red Bee Media20.423.4-3
Google UK20164
Global Radio Services19.420.5-1.1
STV Television18.517.31.2
Financial Times Ltd18.419.4-1
News Group Newspapers1819.6-1.6
NBC Universal17.46.211.2
BBC Studios17.216.90.3
News UK16.622.4-5.8
Associated Newspapers16.115.40.7
DC Thompson15.415.7-0.3
Bauer Consumer Media15.117.2-2.1
The Farm1520-5
Walt Disney Company14.915.8-0.9
Express Newspapers14.619-4.4
Viacom International13.913.70.2
Verizon UK1314.1-1.1
Channel 5 Broadcasting12.72.110.6
ITV Broadcasting12.610.71.9
Facebook UK11.910.31.6
TI Media1113.8-2.8
ITV Studios10.710.30.4
Exterion Media10.510.30.2
Times Newspapers10.312.7-2.4
BBC Studios Productions10--
Thomson Reuters9.88.71.1
Midland News Association9.73.16.6
Guardian News & Media8.412.1-3.7
Archant Community Media7.96.41.5
IMG Media7.87.80
Sky UK7.880.2
Deluxe Media Europe60.25.8
FremantleMedia Group5--
ITV Breakfast4.95.6-0.7
The Press Association4.60.54.1
Discovery Corporate Services4.63.31.3
Haymarket Media Group3.84.3-0.5
William Reed Business Media1.118.5-17.4
Dennis Publishing-3.4-1.1-2.3
Perform Media Services-19.5-20.61.1
JCDecaux UK-32.2-21.9-10.3
Clear Channel UK-53.1-57.94.8
Newsquest Media Group-827-89

The tables above display the median percentage difference between men and women's pay.

Although companies also report the mean percentage difference, as well as the proportion of women in each pay quartile, the median is considered the most representative measure of the pay gap.

The Drum will be reporting on reactions across the industry to the new gender pay gap data as they come in.

Additional reporting by Rebecca Stewart.

Update: This article was updated at 13.30 on 5/4/2019 to add three agencies - The Mill, MPC and Framestore - to the sample above. The average industry median pay gap was updated accordingly.