Advertising’s gender pay gap figures make sorry reading

Who would have guessed that Omnicom would have the worst gender pay gap among the big groups?

Omnicom has always given the impression that it’s a kinder place to work than more macho rivals like WPP and IPG, particularly as its creative agencies are run by women: Cilla Snowball at AMV BBDO, and Tammy Einav at adam&eveDDB.

But with a 30.2 per cent per cent mean pay gap (and 25.5 per cent median) across the group, Omnicom is in disgrace, and its creative agencies are the worst offenders.

Adam&eveDDB — disguised on the government website as DDB UK — has a 38.1 per cent mean pay gap (34.2 per cent median) and media agency OMD’s is 35 per cent (28 per cent median), while AMV BBDO’s is 32.3 per cent (37.5 per cent median).

They don’t quite reach the depths of JWT’s shameful 38.8 per cent (44.7 per cent median), but it’s not far off.

The next worst offender among the big groups is Havas, with a 29 per cent mean pay gap (26 per cent median). There’s not much to choose between WPP with 25.7 percent (20.3 per cent median), Publicis at 25.4 per cent (18 per cent median), and Dentsu Aegis Network at 24 per cent (8.2 per cent median).

IPG’s stands at 20.4 per cent mean (16 per cent median), but the group has so far only filed numbers for McCann. MullenLowe and IPG Mediabrands missed the deadline of midnight on 4th April.

The calculations come from looking only at the groups’ main media and ad agency brands with 250 or more employees.

Whichever way you cut the numbers, the industry is failing women badly.

At Advertising Week Europe recently, the programme was packed with sessions on diversity and inclusion, with plenty of women panelists, all contributing to the impression that women were actually being treated as equals.

But it’s all a sham, as the numbers demonstrate. Havas Group CEO Chris Hirst admitted that standing up in front of his agency to announce the gender pay gap was a very uncomfortable experience for him – and so it should be. On a positive note he also said that it’s a good way to focus the mind on improving the situation, because he will be making the same presentation next year and the numbers will have to be better by then.

It’s depressingly predictable and, with the figures coming out all at once, there is a danger that agencies will be able to hide behind a group “mea culpa.” WPP may have misjudged the situation by revealing its figures early and drawing attention to itself: the one statistic etched on everyone’s minds is that JWT has the worst pay gap in the industry.

No agency has anything to boast about. Ironically an Omnicom agency, PHD, did best, with a mean pay gap of 15.5 per cent and a median pay gap of 2.5 per cent, both of which are well below the national average. The BBC has calculated that the UK average median gap is 9.7 per cent in favour of men, but among the big advertising groups, it’s more like 21 per cent.

The ad industry needs to treat women better and to get over its macho culture. It particularly needs to nurture more women creatives, partly because that’s the department where many of the better-paid staff are sitting. We’ve all been saying this for a long time, but making the pay gap figures public like this should force agencies to work harder at improving the situation. Imagine the shame if your gender pay gap were to get worse from one year to the next.

In terms of recruiting women, it’s hard to say how it will all play out. Women may just think that this isn’t the industry for them and steer clear. No agency has a gender pay gap that screams “female friendly,” so it might actually make sense for women to go for jobs at the worst offenders, knowing that those agencies have a lot of rebalancing do to before next year’s update on their gender pay gap.

Advertising isn’t alone — according to the BBC, 78 per cent of firms pay men more than women — but some companies are getting it right.

Unilever’s mean pay gap is 8.8 per cent in favour of women (1.3 per cent median in favour of women), and Diageo’s is well below the national average at 4.1 per cent in favour of men (with a median of 9.8 per cent in favour of women). Dominos Pizza somehow has a pay gap that’s 14.7 per cent in favour of women (17.6 per cent median).

If these big marketers can create a more equal working environment, agencies have no excuse. They need to understand that a more balanced workplace will benefit men too, and they have to get on with investing in female retention, promotion, and role models.

A year from now we will see who’s been putting in the effort that is so urgently required.

Update The Omnicom numbers include OMD’s London-based EMEA office, but omit the figures for OMD Group UK. The OMD UK office has the best pay gap figures in the entire industry, with a 5.7 per cent mean and a 4.4 per cent median gap in favour of men. Taking OMD UK’s numbers into account, Omnicom’s pay gap is smaller than Havas, WPP and Publicis.

Update: IPG’s MullenLowe hasn’t released figures because its various companies are still trading separately. Next month 400 staff will will come together as one legal entity, and the gender pay gap will be made public at that time. CEO Dale Gall admits that MullenLowe will be in the bottom third of agencies, and there is a “job to be done” at MullenLowe.

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall
Emma Hall is the former London Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.