Britain's Agencies Are Predominantly White-Skinned

30 January 2003

Ninety-five point seven per cent of staff within Britain's ad agencies are white and hail from a British background, according to a survey by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. Skins of a different hue account for just 1.4% (black) and 1.3% (Asian). The unaccounted-for 1.6% are presumably chameleons.

Across the UK as a whole, according to the Commission for Racial Equality, some six per cent of the UK population is classified as an ethnic minority. But in Greater London (which houses the majority of the nation’s advertising agencies) the ethnic element rises to nearly 30%.

Comments the CRE: “It is striking that the advertising industry has come a long way in the past five years in terms of its product and if you look at ads now you see a lot of black faces. But there is clearly a long way to go in terms of its own workforce. Lots of the top creative talent in arts and media is going to be found in ethnic minority communities in the future and the advertising industry is missing out on that.”

IPA president Stephen Woodford acknowledged the CRE’s implicit criticism: “We are hoping to encourage greater ethnic diversity and the positive news from [our] …research is that ethnic minority employees find the agency business one in which talent thrives regardless of background.”

Assured Woodford: “We will use this data as a benchmark and, as a result of the IPA's strategy to encourage more entrants from the ethnic minorities, we hope to see increasing employment in agencies in future years.”

The ethnic imbalance formed part of the data obtained by the IPA’s 2002 Annual Census of ad agencies. This also revealed a 4% fall in large agency (gross income £18m+) staff levels. Small and medium-size agencies, however, fared better with jobs increasing by 5% and 4% respectively.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff