Pay Gap Work & Wellbeing Agency Culture

Gender pay gap: progress slows at ad agencies as sector lags behind UK economy


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

April 5, 2022 | 11 min read

Progress on closing the gender pay gap at British advertising and marketing agencies is slowing, analysis from The Drum has shown.


The pay gap closed at UK ad agencies this year, but only slightly / Unsplash

Based on snapshot data from almost 10,000 companies between April 2021 and April 2022, the UK’s average median gender pay gap (considered to be the more accurate measure) is 12.3%. But the average median gap at ad agencies during the same period was 15.5%, meaning that women are paid on average 3.5% less than male workers at agencies than they would be at other kinds of businesses.

Furthermore, in the two years between 2021 and 2019, the sector’s average median pay gap fell a modest 1.68%. But between 2022 and 2021, the median gender pay gap only decreased by 0.1%. The figures suggest that industry-wide progress on closing the gap has slowed.

Conversely, major media companies such as Guardian Media Group, Express Newspapers and Channel 4 have also reported their most recent gender pay gap data and the media sector comes out ahead of most British companies.

Last week, the IPA’s annual census also revealed disparities in gender pay among its member agencies, which indicated a sharp increase in the number of women moving to part-time or freelance work – or quitting the industry altogether. This shift has been attributed to soaring childcare costs making it impractical for women who are primary childcarers to remain at work.

While the number of women in C-suite positions has increased marginally, Uzma Afridi, head of careers at advertising and media industry charity Nabs, says a great diversity of people is needed on boards and in senior positions to help address the gender pay gap.

“People who are invested in this crucial issue are more likely to bring about the change we need to see. What’s more, agencies need to have policies in place that equalize parental leave in order to tackle the ‘motherhood penalty’.”

British companies with more than 250 employees are required by law to report their gender pay gaps publicly. While the deadline for this year’s release was yesterday (April 4), several major UK agencies, including Golin and McCann Central, had not reported their data by the time of publication. In 2020, the government relaxed rules on reporting pay gap data to ease the burden on businesses impacted by the pandemic.

Below, we’ve pulled the gender pay gap data for 46 key advertising and marketing agencies. We’ve shown the median pay gap, since that’s considered to be the more accurate measure, and shown the percentage change since 2019 – the last reporting period before the pandemic. The table is ranked by the largest 2021-22 median pay gap.

Gender pay gap at UK ad agencies

Agency 2021-22 pay gap % 3 year % change
BBH Partners 33 9
Digitas 28.2 -1
M&C Saatchi 27.3 *
VCCP Group 27.1 4.7
The Mill 26.8 -4.2
Publicis Health 26.2 3
Framestore 26.1 2.1
OMD EMEA 26 5.2
Iris Group 24.9 8
WPP 2005 23.6 -10.4
Ogilvy & Mather 23 1.7
Dentsu UK 22.8 4.5
DDB UK 22.4 -4.6
McCann Erickson 21.8 -1.3
Salmon/Wunderman Thompson Commerce 21.8 -7.8
Spark 44 21.7 -7.2
Rapp 20.6 -7.6
Sapient Ltd 19.5 -5.1
Mediabrands 18.3 -1.5
McCann Manchester 17.8 1.2
Mindshare Media UK 16.9 -0.8
Essence Global 16.8 0.1
Saatchi & Saatchi 16.7 9
Hogarth Worldwide 15.8 -4.2
Iris Nation 15.5 -9.5
Kantar UK 15.1 -3.6
Wunderman Thompson 13.8 -24.5
Tag Europe 13.5 -0.3
OMD Group 11.1 3.9
WPP Brands 9.4 -6.9
Hill & Knowlton 8.5 10.9
Wavemaker 8.5 -3.9
Mediacom Holdings 7.7 1.2
Zenith 7.1 -8
McCann Health 7.1 -8.4
Kantar Media 6.4 6.8
Kantar Media 6.4 6.8
Starcom 6.2 -12.5
Creative Lynx 5 -4
Dentsu Manchester 4.8 -0.7
DDC Outsourcing* 1.4 -2.4
Oliver 1.2 0.9
Mediacom North 0.5 -14.4
PHD Media -1.7 -13
Havas Media -3 -23.7

The data shows that Publicis agencies BBH and Digitas have some of the widest gender pay gaps in the advertising business. The difference between men’s and women’s pay at BBH has widened by 9% since 2019. In contrast, Havas Media, PHD and Oliver recorded negative or very small gender pay gaps while WPP agencies collectively outperformed the sector, closing the gap 1.9% in the last 12 months.

Major UK advertisers fared better. Sainsbury’s was 4.3%, while Coca-Cola and Irn-Bru maker AG Barr’s gaps were were 4.5% and 2.7% respectively, while their mutual competitor Pepsico had a gap of 16.4%. Procter & Gamble’s pay gap was 21.8%, while at Unilever UK, women’s median hourly pay was 3.9% higher than men’s. McDonald’s, meanwhile, had 0% difference between men’s and women’s median hourly pay. At Mars Wrigley, the pay gap was -9%.

Gender pay gap at UK media companies

Below, you’ll find British media companies’ gender pay gaps, ranked largest first and with a three year percentage difference shown.

Company 2021-22 pay gap % 3 year % change
MGN 26.5 4
Economist Newspaper Ltd 22.4 -6.8
Telegraph Media Group 21.1 -1.6
ITV Services 20.6 0.1
Channel Four Television 20.5 -2.8
UKTV 19.7 4.2
Express Newspapers 15.7 1.1
Verizon UK 13.5 0.5
Financial Times Ltd 13.4 -5
Newsquest Media Group 9.8 91.8
ITV Broadcasting 9.6 -3
STV Television 8.3 -10.2
BBC Studios Productions 8.1 -9.1
BBC Studios Distribution 8.1 0.5
Guardian Media Group 5.3 -3.1
BBC 5.2 -2.4
ITV Studios 4.9 -5.8
ITV Breakfast 3.6 -1.3
Discovery Corporate Services -1.5 -6.1

Across our sample of UK media employers, the average median pay gap was 12.35%, just behind the UK average of 12.31%. Scottish broadcaster STV and the BBC’s commercial production company BBC Studios closed the gap most successfully, while UKTV and Mirror Group (MGN) saw their gaps widen.

*M&C Saatchi wasn’t eligible to report its gender pay gap data until this year. WPP Brands is the formal name for VML&YR. DDC Outsourcing, a CX agency, was previously known as CGF Marketing.

Additional reporting by Ellen Ormesher.

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