Marketing & the Marginalized Agency Business Agency Models

UK agencies record marginal gender pay gap improvement, but still lag behind average


By Sam Bradley | Senior Reporter

October 6, 2021 | 11 min read

Figures showing the difference between the pay of men and women at British businesses show UK agencies have modestly improved their pay gaps compared to previous years – but still lag behind the nationwide average.

adobe stock representing the gender pay gap

Complete figures showing the gender pay gap in adland have been released this week

This week, the gender pay gap figures for UK companies with more than 250 employees were finally released for the year 2020-21 – meaning a complete picture of the gender pay gap among British ad agencies can now be described.

Due to the economic impact of the pandemic, the UK government – which requires that eligible companies report data on their gender pay gaps or be fined – gave firms a year off reporting, and a further six-month grace period following this year’s original deadline in April. A handful of agencies, including Publicis’s Starcom and Zenith, have also released figures for 2021-22.

The figures show the UK ad industry has closed the gender pay gap by a modest 1.4% in two years – but advertising businesses still lag behind the rest of the UK economy on pay equity. According to The Financial Times, the pay gap across British business grew wider over the last year to 12.71%; on average, women earn 87p for every pound earned by a man. In contrast, the average pay gap in adland is 4.2% higher.

What does the data tell us?

Because some agencies did not report their data for the period 2019-2020, we’ve compared figures across a two-year period using the median percentage difference between men’s and women’s pay in 2020-21 and 2018-19.

Analysis of the new data shows the average median gender pay gap at UK advertising agencies was 16.96% between 2020 and 2021. That’s a decrease of 1.34% since 2018-19; during that time, 24 out of 43 eligible agencies managed to cut their gender pay gaps.

While some companies saw large increases – the gap at WPP 2005, Saatchi & Saatchi and BBH Partners increased over 10% – there are also success stories hidden in the numbers. Starcom has cut its gender pay gap 13.8% (across Publicis’s five eligible agencies, the gap closed 1.12% in just the last year) and Wunderman Thompson has closed its gap 16.9%, after reporting one of the largest pay gaps in the industry in previous years.

Annette King, chief executive officer of Publicis Groupe UK, said: ”I firmly believe that as we emerge from the pandemic, we have a responsibility to build back better. We’ve made great strides forward in the past year in tackling inequalities that exist in our business, as they do across society. We have a long way to go but I’m confident we are on the right track. I’m pleased to see Zenith, Saatchi & Saatchi and Digitas have narrowed their median gender pay gaps in 2021.”

In particular, Havas Media reported 0% differerence between men’s and women’s median hourly pay in 2020-21; a cut of over 20% since 2018 – though, that might be an outlier, since the gap across Havas’s entire UK operations is 13%, according to the holding company.

The table below shows 44 agencies that reported their data publicly, ranked by the percentage change between the two reporting periods. Some UK agencies – including Golin/Harris and Iris Nation – have still not reported their figures.

UK agency gender pay gap 2018-2021

Agency Pay gap % (2020-21) Pay gap % (2018-19) % Difference
WPP 2005 44.9 34 10.9
Oliver 10.7 0.3 10.4
BBH Partners 34 24 10
Saatchi & Saatchi 16.9 7.7 9.2
Kantar Media 6.4 -0.4 6.8
OMD EMEA 27.3 20.8 6.5
McCann Manchester 22.7 16.6 6.1
Hill & Knowlton 2.6 -2.4 5
Essence Global 21.4 16.7 4.7
OMD Group 10.6 7.2 3.4
Ogilvy & Mather 24.7 21.3 3.4
Framestore 27.2 24 3.2
McCann Central 24.8 22.7 2.1
McCann Erickson 24.8 23.1 1.7
Dentsu London 19.7 18.3 1.4
Creative Lynx 10 9 1
Publicis Health 24.1 23.2 0.9
Digitas 30 29.2 0.8
VCCP Group 23.2 22.4 0.8
Grey 31.7 31 0.7
Hogarth Worldwide 19.4 20 -0.6
Zenith 14.1 15.1 -1
DDB UK 25.8 27 -1.2
Dentsu Manchester 4.2 5.5 -1.3
Mindshare Media UK 16.2 17.7 -1.5
Tag Europe 12.1 13.8 -1.7
Mediacom Holdings 4.2 6.5 -2.3
Kantar UK 16.2 18.7 -2.5
WPP Brands 12.8 16.3 -3.5
CGF Marketing 0.1 3.8 -3.7
Sapient Ltd 20.5 24.6 -4.1
Mediacom North 10.2 14.9 -4.7
Mediabrands 15.1 19.8 -4.7
Wavemaker 7.5 12.4 -4.9
Salmon 24.5 29.6 -5.1
Spark 44 21.7 28.9 -7.2
The Mill 21.9 31 -9.1
PHD Media 0.1 11.3 -11.2
Rapp 16 28.2 -12.2
McCann Health 2.8 15.5 -12.7
Starcom 4.9 18.7 -13.8
Wunderman Thompson 21.4 38.3 -16.9
Havas Media 0 20.7 -20.7


WPP 2005 isn’t an agency, but the parent company of WPP’s network in the UK. Dentsu London was previously known as Dentsu Aegis in the UK. WPP Brands superseded Y&R in the UK; Wunderman Thompson’s figures follow J Walter Thompson’s figures, showing the impact of that agency’s merger with Wunderman.

The table refers to the median percentage difference between men’s and women’s hourly pay, which is considered a more reliable measure than the mean.

Amendment: we reported earlier that Publicis Ltd had not published its figures before the deadline; that reference has been removed, since that company comes under the headcount threshold for pay gap reporting (6 October).

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