Agencies must work harder to reach 2020 ethnic diversity targets

The IPA has released the second part of its annual diversity survey which looks at the ethnic diversity of agencies. The Survey reveals that although BAME representation is improving at the junior level, the industry must work harder to make sure this filters upwards into the boardroom.

This is the second time the IPA, in association with Campaign magazine, has run the survey. This year it has been broadened out to the wider IPA agency membership, with data now captured as part of the IPA’s comprehensive annual Census*. Responses regarding BAME figures were received from 91 agencies.This compares to last year where responses regarding BAME data were received from only the biggest 31 agencies with a gross income of £20m or more than 200 employees.

In light of the wider sample size, direct comparisons on year-on-year figures are not possible. There are, however, some key trends to emerge from 2016 data.

Survey findings:

  • The long-term data reveals a positive upward trend regarding the total proportion of ethnically diverse agency personnel, from 6.1% in 2007 to 12.0% in 2016 (figures before 2014 taken from wider IPA Agency Census). This is down from 13.1% in 2015 (see above point regarding this year’s wider sample size).
  • At the most junior level (junior, executive, assistant) the representation of individuals from a BAME background is at the national level of 15%, but overall within the C-suite the number is 4.7%, and within Other executive management roles it is 5.5%. (In addition, Head of Department, 7.4%; Other senior staff, 10.1%; and Middle managers, 12.3%).
  • Data reveals creative agencies have a higher percentage of BAME individuals at the Chair, CEO, MD level (5.3%) and Other executive management level (6.0%) than media agencies, at 3.1% and 4.5% respectively. However, media agencies have a higher percentage of BAME individuals at the junior level at 17.5% compared with creative agencies at 12.4%.

To help agencies meet the ethnic diversity targets, the IPA has been working on a number of initiatives:

  • Since 2012, Creative Pioneers, the IPA’s Creative Apprenticeship programme, has placed over 600 young people of which 25% have come from BAME backgrounds. This year alone the IPA anticipates there will be over 500 places to be filled.
  • The IPA sits on The Creative Industries Council Diversity sub-group and is collaborating on cross sector initiatives for 2017 to share best practice and thought leadership.
  • On a more immediate level, the IPA has developed the Diversity Hub (, which provides simple, practical recommendations, which can be actioned today.
  • The IPA is continuing its drive to encourage agencies to ‘Make the Leap’, for which companies are asked to visit to submit their pledge to aim for the following industry targets:
    • 40 % female representation in senior positions by 2020
    • 15 % BAME representation in senior positions by 2020
    • help eliminate unconscious bias through training
    • raise awareness of our flexible, or agile, working policies

In addition, the launch of the Government’s apprenticeship levy in April provide agencies with an opportunity to recruit talented young people from a far broader range of backgrounds than the usual graduate ‘milk round’.

Says IPA President Tom Knox: “Diversity of thought leads to greater innovation, creativity and financial returns, as well as increased staff motivation and retention. So, while I am pleased that this survey has played a part in raising ethnic diversity up the agenda of agency leadership teams, the crucial part now is for our agencies to take action.”

For further information, visit:;; or contact the IPA’s Head of Diversity Leila Siddiqi:

*The IPA has undertaken an annual membership census since 1960. The IPA Agency Census is considered to be the definitive media, advertising and marketing communication agency survey because of its wealth of employment trend data across a number of categories: size and geography of agency; male to female ratios across job titles; agency churn rates; and different ways of working. The full census will be released in February.

Last updated 21 January 2022