Which ad agency is the most profitable?

Analysis of the operating profit of the top 50 agencies reveals which fared best... and worst.

Just Eat: McCann made the most profit of any UK agency group
Just Eat: McCann made the most profit of any UK agency group

McCann, DDB and VCCP made more money, before tax and other outgoings, than any other ad agencies in the UK last year, analysis of their financial results by Moore Kingston Smith has found.

McCann Worldgroup UK raked in £37.9m – almost twice as much as DDB UK, which made £20.2m. VCCP made £18.2m, followed by VMLY&R owner WPP Brands, with £16.7m.

The data assessed is from the most recent full-year results available and, in most cases, that is the calendar year 2018. Moore Kingston Smith provided gross income figures for 50 agencies, but was unable to provide an operating profit figure for Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

McCann's profits were up 80% year on year. It was also the agency with the largest profits in the previous year, but by a much narrower margin. DDB, VCCP and WPP Brands have remained in second, third and fourth place respectively.

Of the agencies that recorded a profit in the previous year, the biggest percentage increase was for Saatchi & Saatchi Group, which grew profits by 125.5% to £8.1m. The biggest drop was Engine, which went from a £4.7m profit to a £3.5m loss – a decline of 174%.

The biggest loss made was Wednesday Group's £2.3m, which came as revenue in 2018 almost halved to £3.2m. The next biggest was at M&C Saatchi UK, which made a loss of £2m, an improvement on last year's £2.8m loss.

Which agencies had the largest – and smallest – profit margins?

Moore Kingston Smith also calculated the profit margins of the top 50. It found Fallon to have the highest – at 51.5% – up 20.3 percentage points on last year, although Esther Carder, head of media at Moore Kingston Smith, said this high figure was the result of its restructure, which saw staff costs fall "considerably". With gross revenue of £3.0m, Fallon is the smallest by revenue of the 50 agencies studied.

Second on the list was Maverick Advertising and Design with a 28.5% profit margin on revenue of £8.2m. Third-placed VCCP had a margin of 27.6%.

Companies with a low (but positive) profit margin include Leo Burnett, Ogilvy & Mather Group and Oliver. There were seven with a negative profit margin, including Havas Worldwide London, Engine, J Walter Thompson and M&C Saatchi.