IPA publishes 2020 IPA Agency Census

How has COVID-19 impacted the advertising agency community?

The IPA has published its 2020 IPA Agency Census that evidences the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the advertising agency community.

The core findings indicate that staff numbers in IPA member agencies have been seriously impacted by COVID-19 with numbers within IPA agency member agencies falling 10.8% from 24,866 in 2019 to 22,188 in 2020. In creative and other media non-media agencies numbers fell by 9.0% from 13,509 in 2019 to 12,298 in 2020, while the number of employees in media agencies fell by 12.1% from 11,357 to 9,980.

Overall agencies reported that just over a quarter (25.3%) of total employee departures were a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This figure was higher in creative and other non-media at 30.6% than in their media agency counterparts at 19.6%.


Additional key 2020 IPA Agency Census findings:

Female employment levels impacted more by the pandemic

The number of males employed in member agencies fell by 8.1% year-on–year from 11,700 to 10,752, while the number of females employed fell by 12.8% from 13,088 to 11,411.

The overall number of individuals working in their agencies in a part-time role fell by 23.2% to 1,240 from the 1,615 recorded in 2019. The number of females in a part-time role fell by 24.5% from 1,373 to 1,037, while the number of males in a part-time role fell by 15.1% from 238 to 202.

Number of females in C-suite positions decreases

The overall percentage of females in C-suite positions fell from 34.0% in 2019 to 32.4%. In creative and other non-media agencies, this figure was 32.1%, down from 33.2% in 2019, while in their media agency counterparts it was slightly higher at 32.8%, down from 35.8% in 2019.

Level of ethnic diversity in member agencies increases

The number of employees from a non-white background is estimated at 15.3%, up from the 13.7% recorded in 2019.

Each of the seniority bands used in the survey have year-on-year increases in non-white representation with numbers highest at junior levels at 21.9%, up from 17.7% in 2019, At the C-Suite level (comprising Chair/CEO/MD and Other Executive Management), 6.4% of roles are occupied by individuals from a non-white background, up from 4.7% in 2019.

Pandemic impacts number of employees under 25 and over 60 hardest

The number of those aged under 25 employed in member agencies declined by 29.4% from the 4,592 recorded in 2019 to 3.243 in 2020 with the 1,349 departures accounting for over 50% of the total decline in employee numbers (2,678). While the numbers of employees over 60 in the industry are comparatively smaller, this age bracket also saw a significant fall of 22.1% from 240 to 187 year-on-year.

The average employee age in a media agency is 32.0 years, compared to an average of 36.4 years in creative and other non-media agencies.

Gender and ethnicity pay gaps exist with gender pay gap showing slight decrease year-on-year

Among member agencies providing salary breakdowns by seniority and gender a gender pay gap of 22.7% in favour of males exists which is down slightly on the 24.4% gap recorded in 2019. At 25.8% the gender pay gap is significantly higher in creative and other non-media agencies than it is in media agencies where it stands at 14,3%. At 26.8% the gender pay gap is higher in agencies with up to 200 employees than it is in their larger counterparts where it is 20.9%

Among respondents providing salary breakdowns by seniority and ethnic background, an ethnicity pay gap of 19.5% in favour of those from a white background exists. This stands at 16.2% in creative and other non-media agencies and 21.2% in media agencies. At 21.8% the ethnicity pay gap is higher in agencies with more than 200 employees than it is in their smaller counterparts where it stands at 13.6%. (This is the first time the IPA Agency Census has measured this.)

Comment on the findings:

Says IPA President Julian Douglas: "The pandemic has hit all areas of our lives, and sadly but unsurprisingly our jobs, as this latest IPA Census reveals. With the exception of numbers of people from non-white backgrounds increasing in spite of overall numbers falling, the impact of the pandemic has exaggerated some existing negative trends.

"Talent is equally distributed, opportunity isn't. Now is the time to turn the industry's good intentions into meaningful actions. I implore you to read the new IPA report 'A Future of Fairness' which sets out a clear roadmap for agencies to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces. We must also continue to celebrate those people and companies that are already making a real difference in the diversity and inclusivity of our business. We kicked this off with the IPA inaugural iList last summer, but this should only be the start. 

The awareness is here, the resources and best practice examples are available, it is up to all of us to put our words into action, for the sustained effort required to enable everyone to have their rightful share of opportunity.

Says Leila Siddiqi, IPA Associate Director, Diversity: "This year’s Census results confirm that the industry hasn’t met the IPA diversity targets we set in 2016.* These targets were a deliberate moonshot to focus agencies’ attention on improving the diversity and inclusivity of their workforce and the work they produce for the benefit of all.

"Reaching these targets requires industry leaders to double down on their efforts. They should look critically at their existing portfolio of D&I activities, evaluate the success and failure of each and work out what else they need to do. The roadmap laid out in our recent publication, A Future of Fairness, is a good place to start. The IPA Talent Leadership Group, comprising leading agency heads, will also be making the findings of this report their core focus and will be reviewing these existing targets.

"We must take heart that while the numbers haven’t changed as much as we had hoped, some attitudes have. The pandemic has enforced some positive behaviour change including the acceptance of flexible and remote working and more empathy towards mental health. It has also highlighted awareness that women need better support systems as they have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. Last year’s Black Lives Matter movement has also better educated us on issues around race and the concept of allyship has emerged.

Right now we have the unique opportunity to harness this new understanding by adjusting our ways of working and creating a new culture, fit for the current times, that works better for all of us.

IPA initiatives to improve diversity and inclusivity

To address and progress the levels of diversity and inclusivity within the agency community, the IPA has a full programme listed on its diversity site. Key highlights include the iList, its Stepping into the Spotlight series, its work with the  UK UN Unstereotype Alliance, and most prominently, the IPA’s newly published ‘A Future of Fairness’ report. Edited as a series of opinions from industry leaders and interspersed with current industry best practice, the free publication supports the new IPA Diversity & Inclusion Essentials Certificate. The publication seeks to hold a mirror up to the industry’s progress, celebrate those who have pioneered change and offer up-to-date guidance on how agencies can recruit, retain and motivate top talent. It also includes a roadmap for companies to follow, no matter where they are on their diversity and inclusion journey.

This year the IPA has also joined forces with the Advertising Association (AA) and ISBA to deliver the first industry-wide (agency, advertiser and media owner) diversity and inclusion staff survey, under a new campaign called All In. This study is targeted at the individual-level and will provide granular detail on all aspects of the workplace regarding diversity and inclusion. 

Download the free, full 2020 IPA Agency Census


*In 2016 the IPA established a set of diversity targets for our industry to work towards. The targets aimed to make change happen from agencies up and down the country. While overall figures indicate that as a collective agencies haven’t met these targets, a number of individual IPA agencies are close to achieving one or more of these targets.

The targets and our current position on these:

  • Women to hold 40% of senior positions.

Where we stand: The percentage of females in C-suite positions fell from 34.0% in 2019 to 32.4% in 2020.

  • At least 15% of people in leadership positions will be from non-white backgrounds.

Where we stand: In 2020, at the C-suite level, 6.4% of roles are occupied by individuals from a non-white background, up from the 4.7% in 2019. 

  • At least 25% of entry level recruits should be Black, Asian and ethnic minority individuals

Where we stand: In 2020 this level stands at 21.9%, up from 17.7 in 2019.

Last updated 01 May 2024