10 Largest Advertising Agencies In The World

By Lilly Chesser - Feb. 18, 2021

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In the year 2021, we’re all aware (whether pleasantly or unpleasantly) of the ubiquity of advertising in our daily lives. We see ads scrolling through social media, on billboards, during our favorite TV shows, in print, in native content, and much, much more.

These ads are designed to both influence and inform, and have done incredible work in shaping consumer trends.

However, you may wonder who’s making all these ads. And the answer to that is, largely, advertising agencies. Advertising agencies, also known as advertising companies, ad agencies, or creative agencies, are companies whose mission is to plan, create, and/or handle advertising, and other forms of marketing and promotion for clients.

Advertising agencies are different from a company’s internal marketing team. These agencies are independent of their client, whether they are a completely external firm or a department at a company that is separate enough to offer an outside perspective on products and services. Ad agencies may even have a say in a company’s sales management and processes.

This type of agency can work for any type of client, whether a business, a corporation, a private agency, a non-profit organization, or even an individual. Ad agencies may work as “full-service” agencies for clients across a range of disciplines, or they may specialize in certain areas or niches.

Advertising agencies work with their clients to design and initiate ad campaigns, using media including online advertising, TV and radio advertising, mobile marketing, out-of-home advertising (such as billboards), and more.

Across the globe, the money spent on advertising was over $536 billion USD in the year 2019, and this number only continues to rise. North America is perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest spender in the advertising realm. The United States is responsible for the majority of the investment put towards advertising.

The United States has long been an industry leader in advertising. It is home to the largest and most complex advertising market of any nation, and it is the birthplace of almost all modern aspects of the advertising industry.

The United States alone was responsible for $189 billion USD in advertisement spending in 2018, bigger than the next five countries combined. After North America, the regions with the biggest advertising budgets include Asia and Western Europe. Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East are the regions that spend the least on advertising.

As technology and communication have changed and grown, so has the advertising industry. As we rely more and more on the internet and online services provided to us. In fact, the largest boom in ad trends has been in the form of digital ads.

In the span of only two years, between 2014 and 2016, advertising budgets for social media ads have doubled; soaring from $16 billion USD to $31 billion USD. The two largest spenders in digital advertising are Google which claims 37.2% of total U.S. spending, and Facebook which claims 19.6%.

One of the “trendiest” forms of digital advertising is through short-form videos, which have a high probability of being shared across social media sites.

While trends come and go, the advertising industry as a whole maintains incredible growth over the years. Some companies, however, are the main contributors to this rapid growth. In this article, we’ll discuss the top ten advertising agencies in the world.

The ten largest advertising companies in the world are:

  1. WPP plc — London, UK

  2. Omnicom Group — New York USA

  3. Publicis Groupe — Paris, France

  4. The Interpublic Group of Companies — New York, USA

  5. Dentsu — Tokyo, Japan

  6. Hakuhodo — Tokyo, Japan

  7. Havas — Paris, France

  8. Dentsu Aegis Network — London, UK

  9. MDC Partners — New York, USA

  10. Publicis Sapient — Massachusetts, USA

Looking at our list, we see a very specific mix of countries and locations. Most agencies are located in very big cities across the globe.

Four of these companies are from the United States (only one of which is not located in New York City), two are from the UK (both in London), two are from France (both in Paris), and two are from Japan (both in Tokyo). It’s not hard to see why these specific areas may have a certain cultural finger on the pulse when it comes to reaching a mass audience.

WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, The Interpublic Group, and Dentsu have long held the title of the “Big Five” advertising agencies, a title that still holds true.

How We Ranked the Top 10

For our list of the top ten largest advertising companies, we defined “largest” as generating the highest revenue, rather than measures such as the number of employees or subsidiary networks. Revenue was used as the metric because it tells more about the agency’s overall success and influence.

Our numerical data on revenue comes from worldatlas.com, co.agencyspotter.com, and blog.bizvibe.com. To create our rankings, we used the most recently available annual revenue statistics from the year 2020, but we also took into account the change in revenue since 2018.

The companies you will find on this list are for the most part, not independent advertising companies. Rather, they are massive agency networks that oversee many smaller companies.

About the 10 Largest Advertising Companies

  1. WPP plc

    Revenue ( USD mil.): $17,340

    Company Headquarters Location: London, UK

    WPP plc, headquartered in London, England, is the world’s largest advertising company, and number one on our list. It is a multinational holding company working in communications, public relations, technology, commerce, and of course advertising.

    WPP plc has been in heavy competition with Omnicom Group, and in 2008, WPP plc officially took the title of largest advertising group as well as the highest revenue generating advertising company. The company has a secondary listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

    WPP plc owns a variety of subsidiary advertising, media, market research, and public relations networks, including AKQA, BCW, Grey, Ogilvy, Essence Global, GroupM, UWG Inc., Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Finsbury, Mindshare, Kantar Group, VMLY&R, Wavemaker, and Wunderman Thompson.

    WPP plc was founded in 1971 and employs over 130,000 people. The extended company services include not only advertising but brand consulting, public relations, data and insights, and production.

  2. Omnicom Group

    Revenue (USD mil.): $15,290

    Company Headquarters Location: New York, USA

    American corporate communications and marketing holding company, Omnicom Group Inc., is the second-largest advertising company in the world since 2008, when its first-place title was usurped by WPP plc.

    The company is headquartered in New York City, but operates in over 100 countries worldwide. It has a reputation for cutting-edge creativity in its services, and it has been a longtime member of the “Big Five” advertising agencies.

    Omnicom Group was founded in 1986 and now employs over 77,000 people. The company serves disciplines including advertising, public relations, customer relationship management, and specialty services. They offer services such as digital and interactive marketing, media planning and buying, and brand consultancy.

    Omnicom owns and oversees several powerful networks including BBDO Worldwide, DDB Worldwide, TBWA Worldwide, and DAS Group of Companies. These networks offer services like branding, strategic media buying and planning, healthcare marketing, and digital marketing.

  3. Publicis Groupe

    Revenue (USD mil.): $11,390

    Company Headquarters Location: Paris, France

    At number three is the largest French advertising company, Paris-Based Publicis Groupe, or Publics Group. Publicis Groupe is a multinational advertising and public relations company, and also a member of the “Big Five” advertising agencies.

    Publicis Groupe was founded in 1926, and it is one of the oldest and largest western advertising companies in the world. The company has historically been a leader in expanding the advertising industry. Today, they offer both traditional and digital advertising services to clients.

    The Parisian megacompany nearly merged with industry giant Omnicom, but the plan was eventually scrapped. Still, Publicis Groupe is a leader in the industry, operating in over 105 countries and 200 cities worldwide.

    Publicis Groupe’s subsidiary companies offer services from market research to public relations to branding and defining brand identity. They create content in a range of media including mobile and interactive communication, TV, magazines, cinema, and out-of-home advertising.

  4. The Interpublic Group of Companies

    Revenue (USD mil.): $9,710

    Company Headquarters Location: New York, USA

    The American, New York-based Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. (IPG) lands at number four on our list with a 9.7 billion dollar annual revenue. The creative advertising agency was founded in 1930 and now employs over 54,000 people.

    The company has faced some marketing challenges, especially during the transitional period of the 2000s, but recovered and remains one of the “Big Five” advertising agencies. IPG has recently undertaken strategic change within the company and has appointed Phillipe Krakowsky as the new CEO.

    IPG’s five major networks include IPG Mediabrands, FCB, McCann Worldgroup, MullenLowe Group, and Marketing Specialists. IPG also has a few independent specialty agencies in the disciplines of sports marketing, public relations, talent representation, and healthcare.

  5. Dentsu

    Revenue (USD mil.): $9,600

    Company Headquarters Location: Tokyo, Japan

    At number five on our list, and the final member of the “Big Five” advertising agencies, is the Japanese giant Dentsu. Dentsu is an international advertising and joint-stock company operating out of Tokyo. Last year, Dentsu generated 9.6 billion dollars in revenue.

    Dentsu is the largest advertising agency in Japan, and along with its biggest competitor Hakuhodo, it is over 120 years old making it one of the oldest advertising agencies in the world. Dentsu was founded in 1901, and now has over 45,000 employees operating in 145 countries worldwide.

    The Japanese advertising agency provides services including marketing, public relations, digital, media, content, promotions, and global business.

    Dentsu is part of Dentsu, Inc. Agency Network, with its most notable acquisition being that of British marketing company, Aegis Group, which forms Dentsu Aegis Network (we’ll discuss in more depth below).

    In 2011, Dentsu partnered with Facebook and has since played a major role in the development of the platform’s advertising processes.

  6. Hakuhodo

    Revenue (USD mil.): $3,060

    Company Headquarters Location: Tokyo, Japan

    At number six, we have Japanese advertising agency Hakuhodo. This agency pulled in an annual revenue of 3.06 billion USD last year. Hakuhodo offers services in the realm of advertising and public relations. Hakuhodo has over 5,000 employees, with approximately 3,000 Japanese employees and 2,500 international employees.

    Hakuhodo was founded in 1895 and is the oldest major advertising agency still in operation. Hakuhodo has made a name for itself with over 120 years of dedicated work in branding, design, consumer insights, market research, media planning and buying, and relationship marketing.

    Though Hakuhodo is officially out of the ranks of our “Big Five” distinction, it is still a massive company and a major industry player. It has served clients such as Yahoo, Nissan, Tiffany & Co., and Lotte. The company operates out of 17 countries found in Asia, Europe, and North America.

  7. Havas

    Revenue (USD mil.): $1,710

    Company Headquarters Location: Paris, France

    Havas is a multinational advertising and public relations company, operating out of Paris, France. With a yearly annual revenue of 1.71 billion USD, it falls at number seven on our list. Havas is the second-largest advertising agency in France, and it operates out of more than 100 countries worldwide.

    Havas is split into three main divisions of service including Havas Creative Group, Havas Media Group, and Havas Health & You. These branches offer services like direct marketing, media planning and buying, corporate communications, digital, human resources, sports marketing, interactive communications, and public relations.

    Havas has over 17,500 employees and has worked with a huge list of clients including Jack Daniel’s, Ubisoft, Lacoste, Air France, Pernod Ricard, and IBM. The agency was founded in 1968, but before it existed in its modern form, it was the earliest French News Agency created in 1835.

  8. Dentsu Aegis Network

    Revenue (USD mil.): $1,480

    Company Headquarters Location: London, UK

    Dentsu Aegis Network, or Dentsu International, is number eight on our list with an annual revenue of 1.48 billion USD. Dentsu Aegis Network is a multinational digital marketing and media company operating out of London, England, and it is owned fully by the Japanese media agency Dentsu.

    Dentsu Aegis Network has ten primary divisions:

    1. Dentsu (outside of Japan)

    2. Carat

    3. Merkle

    4. Dentsu Media

    5. Mcgarrybowen

    6. Posterscope

    7. Fountainhead MKTG

    8. Isobar

    9. iProspect and Vizeum

    10. Soap Creative

    The company was founded through a merger with Japanese-based Dentsu and London-based Aegis in 2013.

    The company offers communication strategy services through media planning and buying, sports marketing, digital creative work, content creation, and market research.

    The former standalone company Aegis’ origin dates back to 1966, and with the recent merger, it is now larger than ever. Dentsu Aegis Network currently employs around 35,000 people worldwide.

  9. MDC Partners

    Revenue (USD mil.): $1,330

    Company Headquarters Location: New York, USA

    At number nine on our list of largest advertisers is the relative newcomer MDC Partners, an American, New York-based advertising and marketing holding company with an annual revenue of 1.33 billion. MDC Partners was founded in 1980 and now employs over 5,600 people.

    MDC Partners works in the areas of marketing, advertising, technology, media management, analytics, and strategic consulting.

    MDC Partners has a unique company structure. They operate with a partnership model, initially acquiring a majority stake in a partner agency, and leaving a percentage of ownership with the original founder. MDC Partners has over 50 partner firms across the globe.

    MDC Partners tends to invest in partner firms that focus on creative, digital work. These firms are mostly within North America, but the company has begun branching out to international markets.

  10. Publicis Sapient

    Revenue (USD mil.): $1,310

    Company Headquarters Location: Massachusetts, USA

    The final entry on our list, and the tenth-largest advertising agency in the world by revenue, is Publicis Sapient with an annual revenue of 1.31 billion USD. Publicis Sapient is an American company based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts employing over 20,000 individuals.

    Publicis Sapient is a young company with a founding date in 1990, but it is still one of the global leaders in advertising. The company focuses on digital marketing and offers its clients services that help them adapt to the ever-changing digital market. The company is headed by CEO Nigel Vaz.

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Lilly Chesser

Author

Lilly Chesser

Lilia Chesser is a professional copywriter and content writer based in Columbus, Ohio. She graduated from Denison University with a BA in communications.

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