Agency Holding Companies: A Visual Mapping

May 15, 2024
6 minutes

What do agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, and Digitas have in common?

If you guessed that they all have the same owner, you’ve got it right.

There’s this thing in the advertising world called the “Big Six,” which refers to the biggest ad agency holding companies around the world. Before starting to navigate this ecosystem, one often has no idea how complicated it is.

Agency holding companies are “live organisms” that rapidly change, expanding and acquiring new members or losing some of them along the way.

If you work or plan to work with media agencies, it can be highly beneficial to learn which house they’re under to better understand the relationship you’re about to get into.

We made a couple of advertising holding companies charts to show how agencies that you probably thought had nothing in common are actually interconnected.

Agency Holding Companies

Most of us see hundreds of agencies worldwide as individual players in the industry. However, all of them fall under the giant umbrellas of slightly more than ten agency holding companies (parent advertising agency groups that own smaller agencies).

Based on their revenue data (2023) and the number of agencies they own, here’s how the “Big Six” currently looks:

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WPP, Omnicom, Publicis Groupe, Havas, Interpublic, and Dentsu each employ thousands of digital advertising professionals and finished 2023 strong, making about $68,933 million in revenue combined, according to the latest data.

By The Numbers…  

At the time of writing, Publicis Groupe leads the pack with over 100 smaller agencies under its wing, while WPP and Havas follow with 94+. Right behind them is Dentsu and Interpublic – each of them owns around 90 agencies worldwide.

Omnicom, which holds the smallest number of agencies, and Publicis Groupe rank second and third respectively revenue-wise ($14,692 million vs. $15,823 million) surpassed only by WPP, which takes the lead with $17,375 million.

Overall, all six media holding companies managed to increase their revenue in 2023 compared to 2022.

1. WPP

Founded: 1971 (entered advertising in 1985)

HQ: London, UK

Top clients: Adidas, NASA, Coca-Cola, Dell, Mars, P&G, Shell, Sony, Uber, Nestlé, FIFA.

Revenue (2023): $17,375 million

Revenue growth (2023 vs. 2022): +2.8%

WPP is one of the largest advertising company groups headquartered in London, UK. It’s a multinational player specializing in communications, advertising, PR, technology, and commerce.

WPP is the owner of many smaller companies that work in the same or similar field, including big names like AKQA, BCW, Mindshare, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Ogilvy, Grey, Wavemaker, CMI Media Group, Essence Global, Finsbury, and many more.

As of 2022, the WPP advertising network employs around 100,000 people globally and operates smoothly in different markets worldwide.

2. Omnicom

Founded: 1986

HQ: New York City, USA

Top clients: Apple, Adidas, McDonald’s, Nissan, Pfizer, Unilever, PepsiCo, Volkswagen.

Revenue (2023): $14,692 million

Revenue growth (2023 vs. 2022): +4.1%

Headquartered in New York City, Omnicom Group Inc. is an American global media, marketing, and corporate communications holding company, and the second-largest advertising agency holding group (after WPP). The companies it owns provide services in advertising, customer relationship management, PR, and specialty services.

Among some of the best recognizable names, Omnicom Group has BBDO Worldwide, OMD, PHD, Ketchum, FleishmanHillard, Tribal Worldwide, DDB, Porter Novelli, and more.

Based on the latest data, Omnicom Group employs nearly 75,900 digital advertising professionals and operates in more than 100 countries around the world.

3. Publicis Groupe

Founded: 1926

HQ: Paris, France

Top clients: Disney, Samsung, L'Oréal, Hulu, Dunkin’, Orange, Verizon, Kraft Heinz, Visa, Bank Of America, Pfizer.

Revenue (2023): $15,823 million

Revenue growth (2023 vs. 2022): +6.3%

Publicis Groupe is one the oldest marketing and communications agencies in the world that is approaching a solid 100 years in the industry. Historically, it’s always been a leader in advertising industry expansion, and it looks like it’s still keeping its position high.

Some of the biggest names that you can find under Publicis Groupe’s wing are Saatchi & Saatchi, Publicis, Leo Burnett, Digitas, BBH, MSL Group, Spark Foundry, Epsilon, Razorfish, and Arc Worldwide.

The Parisian advertising giant currently employs over 103,000 employees in over 100 countries and remains one of the top players when it comes to digital advertising activities.

4. Havas

Founded: 1835

HQ: Paris, France

Top clients: NFL, Dr. Pepper, Goodyear, Allegra, Fidelity Investments, Icy Hot, Invesco Ltd., O’Lakes.

Revenue (2023): $3,114 million

Revenue growth (2023 vs. 2022): +3.9%

Havas, headquartered in Paris, France, is a multinational advertising and PR company that operates in more than 100 countries around the world. Havas group offers a wide variety of communications services, including advertising, digital, direct marketing, media planning and buying, corporate communications, and more.

Havas is also one of the agency holding companies that has the highest number of smaller agencies and companies under its giant umbrella, among which you can find such names as Arnold, Boondoggle, Buzzman, One Green Bean, BETC, Conran Design Group, and many more.

Havas operates in around 150 countries and employs over 23,000 people that aim to create the best media experience.

5. Interpublic

Founded: 1930

HQ: New York City, USA

Top clients: American Express, Coca-Cola, Fitbit, GoPro, Johnson & Johnson, Levi Strass & Co, Mattel, Spotify.

Revenue (2023): $10,890 million

Revenue growth (2023 vs. 2022): -0.1%

Interpublic Group was always one of the top global advertising agency companies, founded in 1930 and headquartered in New York City, United States. It consists of six major networks – Mediabrands, McCann Worldgroup, MullenLowe Group, FCB, IPG DXTRA, and Marketing Specialists, as well as a number of specialty agencies.

Some of the areas that Interpublic Group specializes in are advertising, of course, media buying and planning, public relations, sports marketing, customer experience, and design.

Approximately, Interpublic Group has 57,400 employees in all major markets worldwide and positions itself as a values-based, future-facing, and client-centric holding company.

6. Dentsu

Founded: 1901

HQ: Tokyo, Japan

Top clients: Canon, Disney, Marriott, Shiseido, Subway, Coca-Cola, Toyota, United Airlines, Asahi Breweries.

Revenue (2023): $7,203 million

Revenue growth (2023 vs. 2022): +1.6%

Dentsu, an international advertising and PR company, originated in 1901 in Japan (and you thought that Publicis Groupe was old…). It’s the largest advertising agency locally that does business with almost every major institution locally and accounts for about 15% of national Japan’s advertising budget.

Among the top names of the agencies Dentsu owns are Dentsu International, iProspect, Isobar US, Fountainhead MKTG, and Vizeum.

As of the latest data, Dentsu Group employs approximately 71,000 people in 145 countries worldwide.

No signs of advertising slowdown

In the past few years, we’ve experienced a rapid switch to digital, across both economy and society. This also had its effects on digital ad spending, as many brands saw the need to increase their visibility online and catch up with quickly changing consumer behavior. 

This was one of the reasons why more budgets were directed toward digital, giving a significant boost to such areas as social media, email marketing, or programmatic advertising – channels that can help to stay at the top of consumers’ minds.

As a result, this has also increased the need for digital services, giving a boost to advertising agencies worldwide and making some of them the main contributors to overall advertising industry growth.

In 2023, it is expected that the market size of the Global Advertising Agencies industry will reach $378.3 billion.

And while trends come and go, it seems like advertising will continue to show a good example of annual growth.

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Philip is the CMO of Eskimi. When he’s not busy growing the Eskimi brand, he spends his time with family and playing ping pong.
Philip is the CMO of Eskimi. When he’s not busy growing the Eskimi brand, he spends his time with family and playing ping pong.
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