PERSPECTIVE: Well done the IPA for talking agencies into publishing incomes

Rupert Howell is one of those IPA presidents who has attracted as

much praise for his achievements as criticism for what some have seen as

his tendency toward personal hype. But the fact that he has managed to

persuade the top 20 UK advertising agencies to reveal their income

figures for the first time says much for his personal charm, which is

legendary, and even more for the IPA's ambitions for the advertising

industry as a whole.

These are simply the best figures to demonstrate that, compared with

their largest clients, ad agencies are relatively small companies which

punch massively above their weight in terms of business


We publish the figures for the top ten on this week's front page, with

billings figures side by side by way of mischievous comparison. So what

are the juiciest details?

First, much will be made of McCann-Erickson UK Group's extraordinary

lead - at pounds 74 million, it is churning out pounds 17 million more

income than its closest rival, Saatchi & Saatchi. Even allowing for the

fact that McCann groups a number of subsidiaries where others do not,

and the resulting apples and pears comparisons, Ben Langdon is heading

London's most profitable agency group.

Those agencies that appear to be the biggest fibbers, the multinationals

such as AMV and BMP, might merely be demonstrating their international

credentials with these figures. In other words, where billings cannot be

diluted, commission can easily be shared with sister shops - hence the

disparity between the two tables.

But one detail stands out above all the rest. In newspapers late last

year, much was made of M&C Saatchi finally overtaking its old rival

Saatchi & Saatchi in the billings league tables. Overtake 'old' Saatchi

'new' Saatchi certainly did, but look at these figures for a more

revealing picture. Saatchi & Saatchi in second place by income with

pounds 56.9 million and M&C Saatchi at eighth by income with pounds 34.7

million. Who's gloating now?

A final question is whether, belatedly, the IPA media agency members too

will try to smarten up their act on releasing income figures. In this

year's Top 300 entry form, Campaign invited media specialists to give us

their income figure. Only six responded. And when the issue was debated

recently by the media policy group within the IPA, I understand that it

only took a couple of words to dismiss it - and the second one was

'off'. No harm in that, perhaps, for media agencies are bound to be

uniquely obsessed by measuring themselves in terms of sheer clout

because of the very nature of their business. But three cheers to

creative agencies for showing themselves mature enough these days not to

be obsessed by size. What matters, they now realise, is not the sheer

volume of money being spent by clients but how that money translates

into the bottom line.


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