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Work & Wellbeing Agency Culture Gender Pay

Pay gap at Havas Media rises 22% as progress on adland equality stalls


By Sam Bradley | Senior Reporter

April 5, 2023 | 15 min read

Latest figures for UK ad agencies show lack of industry-wide progress on pay equality.

adobe stock representing the gender pay gap

The adland pay gap has barely shifted in the last 12 months

Analysis of pay gap data released this week shows that adland’s gender pay gap – 15.3% – remains higher than the UK average of 12.1%. The data suggests that the industry is still failing to make real progress on pay equality.

At media planning and buying agency Havas Media, the difference between men and women’s median pay was 19%, a 22% increase on last year’s benchmark.

It wasn’t the only agency that saw pay equality efforts backslide. The pay gap at agencies owned by WPP, the largest ad group in the world and also the largest in the UK, rose 1.6%.

Overall, the median difference between men and women’s hourly pay in advertising decreased by just 0.57% between 2022 and this week’s snapshot deadline.

Publicis Groupe, which is the next largest agency group in Britain, saw its pay gap close by just 0.6% in the last year.

Annette King, chief executive of Publicis Groupe UK, said: “We made headway in six out of our seven agencies that report their gender pay gap. I’m pleased to see the progress but, overall, it’s too slow and we can do better. I am committed to making Publicis Groupe UK a place where anyone can thrive, no matter where they come from or what they’re going through, and we will continue to do the work to achieve this critical goal.”

All British firms with over 250 employees must publish detailed figures on their gender pay gaps in the first week of April.

Based on analysis of that data, we’ve collated the gender pay gaps of almost 50 agencies in the tables below, including a comparison with the pre-pandemic snapshot from 2018-2019. Agencies are ranked by largest pay gap reported in 2022-2023.


Agency 2022-23 2021-22 12 month % change 4 year % change
WPP 2005 27.3 23.6 3.7 -6.7
Wunderman Thompson 23.6 13.8 9.8 -14.7
Wunderman Thompson Commerce 22.2 21.8 -7.4
WPP Brands 22.1 9.4 12.7 5.8
Ogilvy 21.6 23 -1.4 0.3
Mindshare 17.9 16.9 1 0.19
Hogarth Worldwide 17.7 15.8 1.9 -2.3
Essence Global 17.3 16.8 0.5 0.6
Wavemaker 14.3 8.5 5.8 1.9
Mediacom Holdings 9.9 7.7 3.4
Hill & Knowlton 6 8.5 -2.5 8.4
Mediacom North - 0.5 -14.9
WPP Health - 11.5 0

On average, women’s hourly pay at WPP agencies is 17% lower than men’s. But excluding GroupM UK (which only began reporting this year) as well as WPP Health and Mediacom North (which no longer report due to changes in headcount) from the dataset provides a better comparative view. With those companies removed, the average gender pay gap at WPP’s British agencies is 18.1% – 3.5% higher than last year and less than a 1% improvement on the same figure in 2018.

WPP Brands, the corporate entity which includes VMLY&R, Landor & Fitch and BCW, showed the worst increase, the gap rising 12.7% since last year, while Wunderman Thompson’s gap rose 9.8.%.

Jennifer Remling, WPP’s global chief people officer, said that although female representation in high level roles was increasing at the group – when its new CFO formally joins this year, 46% of its board positions will be held by women – a disproportionate number of women hired into entry-level positions had skewed its figures.

“The gender pay gap is driven by an underrepresentation of women at the most senior levels in our UK companies. Another factor is that we have attracted more female early-career talent into entry-level roles,” she said. “Looking ahead, we will continue to invest in and prioritize the development of women at all levels, focusing on promoting a culture of continuous self-development. As part of this, it is our commitment to ensure we give women the support and skills they need and to identify opportunities for progression so that we can unlock their full potential at WPP.”

Publicis Groupe

Agency 2022-23 2021-22 12 month % change 4 year % change
BBH Partners 28.2 33 -4.8 4.2
Digitas 26.7 28.2 -1.5 -2.5
Publicis Health 24.3 26.2 -1.9 1.1
Zenith 19.9 7.1 12.8 4.8
Sapient Ltd 19.6 19.5 0.1 -5
Saatchi & Saatchi 11.2 16.7 -5.5 3.5
Starcom 2.5 6.2 -3.7 -16.2

Publicis Groupe managed to close the average gap at its UK agencies 0.6% in the last year and 1.44% since 2018. Those numbers are dragged down in particular by Zenith – an outlier, but also one of the group’s biggest growth engines – while BBH and Digitas boast some of the widest gender gaps found in our analysis.

The median gap at Zenith increased significantly over the last 12 months, by 12.8%. Zenith’s British chief executive officer Natalie Cummins told The Drum that the company “had work to do” to close the gap.

“This year’s report shows that we have work to do, as our gender pay gap has increased for the first time since we began reporting in 2017. This is largely due to a significant number of our most senior women recently moving from Zenith UK to other roles in Publicis. We’re proud that our agency is a breeding ground for senior female talent and fully supports the progression opportunities that exist within our wider network, but we are not complacent and know we have work to do.

“The gap has dramatically narrowed since the snapshot date, but the numbers do give us a good indication of where we need to focus to improve the imbalance, and we are confident we will resolve this over the coming year.”

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Omnicom, Dentsu, IPG, Havas and Cheil

Agency 2022-23 2021-22 12 month % change 4 year % change
McCann Erickson 23.1 21.8 1.3 0
McCann Central 22.3 23 -0.69 -0.39
Rapp 20.5 20.6 -0.1 -7.7
DDB UK 20 22.4 -2.4 -7
Havas Media 19 -3 22 -1.7
Iris Nation 18.2 15.5 2.7 -6.8
McCann Manchester 17.8 17.8 0 1.2
Dentsu UK 14.5 22.8 -8.3 -3.8
OMD Group 12.5 11.1 1.4 5.3
OMD EMEA 12 26 -14 -8.8
Mediabrands 5.1 18.3 -13.2 -14.7
Havas Lynx 5 5 0 -4
Tag Europe 4 13.5 -9.5 -9.8
PHD Media 3.6 -1.7 5.3 -7.7
McCann Health -2.3 7.1 -9.4 -17.8

Publicis and WPP’s agencies aren’t the only ones required to report. IPG, Omnicom, Dentsu, Cheil and Havas’s businesses are also included, but since there are fewer of them we’ve collated them into a single table. As a group, the picture is only slightly sunnier; the average median pay gap is 14.5%, which is slightly lower than WPP and Publicis but still higher than the UK average.

Havas Media’s swing over the last 12 months was the worst of any agency in our analysis, though the group’s chief people officer Ewen MacPherson argued that the severity of the change was down to the end of a pandemic-era bonus policy.

MacPherson told The Drum: “Bonuses across the industry are one of the significant drivers in the gender pay gap calculation. For the reporting periods during the pandemic - namely 2020 and 2021 - our senior leadership team elected not to take a bonus in order to split the pool equally among all other employees as a way to recognise their extraordinary efforts during those challenging years.

“This decision positively skewed our reported figures during this period, leaving our figures from 2020 and 2021 unrepresentative of our ordinary situation. That said, while our overall trajectory - from 29% (mean) in 2017 to 24% in 2022 - is heading in the right direction, there is much more to do and we are actively working to continue to reduce this figure further.”

McCann Erickson’s gap was the largest, with male staff paid on average 23.1% more than female co-workers, while Havas Media recorded the largest change – up 22% from a previous 3% difference in favor of women. OMD managed to close the gap 14% at its EMEA business, bringing it down to 12%. IPG Mediabrands also succeeded in reducing its difference by over 13%, down to 5%.

Independent agencies

Agency 2022-23 2021-22 12 month % change 4 year % change
Framestore 32.6 26.1 6.5 8.6
The Mill 29.1 26.8 2.3 -1.9
VCCP Group 23.1 27.1 -4 0.7
Kantar Media 15.9 6.4 9.5 16.3
DDC Outsourcing 1.4 1.4 0 -2.4
Oliver 0 1.2 -1.2 -0.3
Kantar UK -2.8 15.1 -17.9 -21.5

The agencies shown here are indie businesses large enough to be required to report, including luminaries of the UK scene such as VCCP and Oliver. Though there’s encouraging signs – Oliver’s pay gap sits at zero – there’s also evidence of a lack of progress at Kantar, Framestore, PHD and The Mill, all of which saw their gaps increase.

Note: WPP Health, Mediacom North, Spark 44 and M&C Saatchi have been excluded from our industry-wide analysis as they were not required to report this year. WPP 2005 isn’t an agency, but the holding company for the group. Dentsu Manchester had not reported its figures at the time of publication.

This article was last updated 17 April.

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