Media agencies continue to grow while creative shops shrink, finds IPA

The IPA’s annual Agency Census shows there to have been an increase in the number of people employed by media agencies, but staff numbers at creative and non-media agencies have fallen for the second consecutive year.

In 2018, staff employed by media agencies rose by 7.1% year-on-year adding around 700 employees. However, non-media agencies saw a decline in staff to the tune of 5.1%; marking the second consecutive year of shrinkage with around 900 departures.

The figures come as brands increasingly invest in varying kinds of creative models instead of appointing a single ad agency of record, including bringing creative and media closer together and in-housing.

The study, which saw 224 IPA member agencies share their numbers, found that the total number of people working at IPA member agencies fell slightly by 0.6%. Albeit small, the decrease marked the first year-on-year dip since 2009, with the UK agency employee base now sitting at 25,142 compared to 2017's figure of 25,290.

Of that number, 45.6% are aged 30 and under, while just 6.2% are aged 50 and over.

The IPA also noted an increase in the number of people working part-time or reduced hours. In 2018, the number of part-time staff increased to 1634, up from 1,506 the previous year. 86.8% of part-timers and reduced-hours workers are women.

Staff turnover in agency land (excluding redundancies) fell slightly from 30.0% to an estimated 28.4% this year. Including redundancies, overall turnover was around 30%, down from the 31.9% reported in 2017.

Among those agencies providing further detail, resignations accounted for the majority of departures at 64.5% for creative and other non-media agencies and 67.6% for media agencies.

Redundancies accounted for 9.6% of departures from creative and other non-media agencies but only 2.5% of departures from media agencies.

The report also included figures from the IPA’s Diversity Census, which was first published in January.

This research highlighted that even though black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) diversity in UK ad agencies was at an all-time high, the industry has still to make significant progress in appointing individuals from BAME backgrounds to senior positions.

The Diversity Census also revealed that there had been a marginal increase in the number of women in C-suite roles at ad agencies. The number was up from 31.2% in 2017 to 32.7% this year. It marked the second-highest level of female representation in the survey’s history, down from 2015’s peak of 33.1%, and a percentage increase of 4.8% year-on-year.

For the first time, the IPA Agency Census also provided an estimate for the number of employees with a registered disability, unregistered disability or long-term illness, which is estimated at 11.3% of the total employee base. This was in line with other industries, said the trade body.

Commenting on the findings, the report’s author Roger Ingham said: “The results of this year’s IPA Agency Census reflect the broader national economic uncertainty over the last few years.

"Marketing budgets have been tightening for some time, albeit with the exception of this quarter, and therefore it is unsurprising to see the industry in a state of stasis. It is also interesting to see the continued growth of media agencies, reflecting an industry trend that we have seen for a number of years.”