New list of adland’s top earners show striking absence of advertising people

Business Insider has published its annual list of the top earners in advertising and, strange but true, hardly any (maybe none) are actually involved in advertising at all.

Now they’re all from quoted companies admittedly so you’d expect the top honchos to figure on the list and, indeed, they do. Top of the pops is WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell (below) on $87m (£70m) thanks to his customary vast annual share award. Next is Omnicom’s John Wren on a still substantial $23m. Then there are finance directors, general counsels (whatever they do). There are a couple of media types but the only ones who (maybe) ever cast their eyes over an ad campaign are Dentsu’s Tim Andree and WPP Digital/Wunderman’s Mark Read.


Publicis Groupe ‘head coach’ and former Saatchi boss Kevin Roberts (rudely defenestrated this year – or was he?) gets in there at $4.4m. It’s likely, of course, that holding company owned big network chiefs like Arthur Sadoun of Publicis Communications and Andrew Robertson of Omnicom’s BBDO also earn over $2m but their earnings aren’t disclosed in the annual report. But there’s nary a sign of a creative.

At the very least the table shows us that most of the ad world is managed by professional financial managers: Sorrell rose to prominence as Saatchi & Saatchi’s finance director, Wren and Interpublic’s Michael Roth came from outside the industry while, back in the days of steam-driven computers, Publicis CEO Maurice Levy was the company’s IT person. This doesn’t stop them pontificating about advertising and shaping its course. But how qualified are they?

They’ll say they know top clients well, of course, and Sorrell still turns up for some creative and media agency pitches. But usually that’ll be to cut a group-wide deal.

Being good at advertising actually seems to be an impediment in the holding companies these days. The equivalent of a player/manager at a Premier League club. (There aren’t any.)

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