The Agency Happiness Report

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | March 22, 2013
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The first survey of its kind of creative and media agency employees shows that happiness lies in the most unexpected places.

We have discussed the idea for more than a year now, tossing it around to get it just right. And here it is, finally.

There are many reasons to try to keep employees happy. The best one of them, of course, is that if employees are happy, they are likely to do good work, and if they do good work, it will result in happy clients. In fact, there are companies which believe that more important than shareholders and customers, the health of a company is best gauged by testing the happiness of employees. If they are fine, everything else will follow. America's celebrated company, Southwest Airlines, is one such. Its priorities: employees first, customers second, shareholders last.

Admittedly, this would not apply across all businesses. All the same, nobody can disagree that if you must have employees, keep them happy rather than disgruntled.

We found that while a few agencies do conduct internal satisfaction surveys occasionally, a regular examination of employee attitudes is rare. So, while there are perception studies of what others think of ad agencies, this is the first public survey of what employees themselves feel about the place where they work.

While the details of the methodology are available elsewhere in this report, here are the highlights: Ipsos Worldwide, a global market research agency was mandated to undertake the survey. Fifty agencies, both creative and media were shortlisted. Over 5,000 advertising and media agency professionals were invited to participate. A total of 1,211 responded, thus ensuring that the objective of a 5-10 per cent employee coverage sample level was achieved comfortably.

Respondents were presented statements with the option to score 1 if they Completely Disagreed with it and 5 if they Completely Agreed. They were presented with 30 such statements. These fell under nine parameters which touched upon all major aspects of work life ranging from Culture and Values of the agency down to Physical Environment and Amenities. The average of scores on each statement under that parameter was taken as the score for the parameter.


Small vs Large agencies: The smaller creative agencies seem to have the happiest employees. Agencies like Everest, Scarecrow and Innocean perform consistently well across parameters. However, this is not to say that employees in all small and medium agencies are happy and those in large ones are not. Looking down the list of 24 creative agencies, you will find that big, medium and small are mixed all over. In the case of media agencies, this trend is not so clear.

Small Parameter vs Overall: While discussing the methodology, we'd internally discussed whether the final standing of the agency should be the average of its score across parameters or if we should have a separate parameter called 'Overall' as the basis for final ranking. We went for the latter.

We are glad that we did. It is clear that in the case of several agencies, employees' view of them on individual parameters is different from what they think of the agency in totality. The example of two agencies will illustrate that.

Innocean has the most amazing performance on individual parameters. It is in the top five on every single parameter: It tops on two, is second on five of them; and comes third and fourth on two others. But when it comes to 'Overall' ranking, it features only at No 7, way below its rank on any of the individual parameters.

The reverse is the case with Ogilvy. It appears in the bottom half of the list on most parameters in this survey but when it comes to the overall standing, it shoots up to No 4. After giving it low scores on most matters, Ogilvy employees, when asked to respond to statements like pride in agency and in its output, they seem to realise that they hold it in high esteem.

In the media agencies, possibly because the number is smaller, such a phenomenon is not immediately evident.

Scores by city: People in the Mecca of advertising, Mumbai, are the happiest with their work life. On every one of the nine parameters for creative agencies, Mumbai comes up with the nicest scores. The second and third place is almost evenly divided between Delhi NCR and Southern India (Bengaluru and Chennai together). Even when it comes to Physical Environment and Amenities, spacious Delhi can't overhaul Mumbai. Kolkata always bring up the tail end.

In the case of media agencies, different cities top on various parameters. So too does Kolkata on more than its fair share.

Experience and Tenure: An analysis of scores by work experience and tenure - or years at the current job - reveals an interesting trend. In the case of creative agencies, there is a clear correlation between years of work and happiness at the workplace. As people gain either work experience or spend more time in one agency, their level of satisfaction on virtually every parameter rises. In other words, the youngest and the newest are generally the least happy; and the most experienced as well as old employees are usually the happiest.

Now comes the odd bit. In the case of media agencies, the trend is not identical. In work experience, the scores are pretty much level all the way from people with less than five years' workex all the way up to people with 12 years. It is only at 12 plus, that the scores are clearly higher. And when it comes to tenure, the rise in scores is sharp only at the point of 10 years and more.

Why should the graph rise differently for creative and media agencies? The only explanation offhand seems to be that media agencies have flatter hierarchies and senior people lead less privileged lives. Or it could be that seniority in a creative agency gives either more variety or security or promise of growth than in a media agency. The reason or reasons will become clearer in subsequent surveys of this kind.

Happiness by department: The analysis by department has been done only for the creative agencies. And the trend is clear. The happiest department, by far, is General Management. It is the happiest on every single parameter, usually by a big margin. Any guesses for the most disgruntled department of them all? Time up! It's Creative, which brings up the bottom on six of nine parameters as well as in the 'Overall' assessment. Client Servicing comes in last twice and Account Planning just once.

Lastly, salaries: This survey confirms what we know intuitively - in our saner movements - to be true. Everybody assumes that others are better paid and, by extension, that they are underpaid compared to others. For both creative and media agencies, the lowest score comes in response to the statement, 'I am paid on par with industry standards'. Since it is evident that everybody can't possibly be equally underpaid in the same business - in which case where are the people who are overpaid?


And on to the 'Overall' rankings of individual agencies, beginning with the creative lot. At the top, by a huge margin is Everest, once among India's largest agencies that went into precipitous decline and is now reviving. It tops on each of the four statements put to respondents and especially on pride in agency and going the extra mile, it hits 4.86 out of 5.00 which is about as good as it gets.

The runner up is a startup, just two years old, that has come galloping up the ranks of older, larger agencies: Scarecrow. It ranks best on proud of agency output as well as pride in agency. Scarecrow also does extremely well right across, appearing among the top five agencies in six of nine parameters.

Saatchi & Saatchi, at No 3 overall, is another agency that does well on parameters as well as in the overall standing. It makes it to the top five in five out of nine parameters. On statements within the 'Overall' measure, Saatchi & Saatchi comes in at No 2 on going the extra mile to help the agency and at No 3 on sense of pride in agency.

Next comes lowe Lintas and Ogilvy jointly at No. 4. The latter, as mentioned earlier, is in the bottom half of the list on most parameters but when it comes to 'Overall', does really well at No 4. It does especially well on pride in the agency's output as well as 'I would recommend my agency to my friends', standing at No 3 on both.

Lowe Lintas takes fourth place in the overall ranking with its best ranking on the statement, 'I would recommend my agency to my friends' where it is placed second. On individual parameters, Lowe Lintas does well again, figuring among the top five on three parameters.

Leo Burnett, Innocean, Draft FCB Ulka, Dentsu and TBWA, in that order, are next in line, and make up the numbers from No 6 to No 10.

Parameters for Creative Agencies

(Click on each parameter for detailed analysis)


DDB Mudra Media's domination of this ranking is truly special. It is in the top 5 of every single parameter and, in fact, maxes on seven out of nine of them. As if that wasn't enough to make the competition grit its teeth, it tops the overall ranking as well. Even here it does so with elan. It is No 1 on three of the four parameters that go into 'Overall'.

Maxus ranks among the top three on every parameter, except one, and plonks itself down mostly in the third place. That consistency comes across in the oveall rankings too where it is unlucky to lose to the first postion DDB Mudra Media by just 0.04 points. In the 'Overall' statements, Maxus stands second on all except on 'I want to go the extra mile' where it takes the pole position.

Mediacom takes the overall third place. It does well across most parameters and even in the 'Overall' statements, it does its best by getting to third position on two statements, sense of pride in the agency and recommending the agency to friends.

Mindshare and Lintas Media Group jointly take fourth place. Mindshare exhibits the same behaviour as Ogilvy does among creative agencies. When viewed by individual parameter, it takes on average the seventh position among a list of 11 media agencies. However, when it comes to 'Overall', it does significantly better by grabbing fourth place. Here, it gets fourth place on two statements, pride in the output of the agency and a willingness to recommend the agency to friends.

Lintas Media Group which is in the top five on most parameters. In the overall ranking, it does best at fourth place on sense of pride in the agency.

Parameters for Media Agencies

(Click on each parameter for detailed analysis)



IPSOS, a global market research agency, was mandated to undertake an industry survey that maps and reports the level of well being of employees within their present place of work.

Fifty large agencies, both creative and media were shortlisted for this exercise. It was decided that only completed responses from people using their official ids for the purpose would be accepted. Further a minimum of 5% and a maximum of 10% of the workforce of each agency being covered, needed to respond, to make the data valid for that agency.

The afaqs! team and Ipsos Media CT team together brainstormed decided on the parameters for evaluation and set up a microsite to make it convenient for respondents to fill up the questionnaire when convenient. Using the afaqs! database, over 5,000 advertising and media agency professionals were accordingly selected, and an invitation sent to them to participate in the survey. An online questionnaire was hosted for the respondents to fill, with a verification trackback sent to each. A total of 1211 people responded, ensuring that the objective of 5-10% employee coverage/sample levels was met/ achieved, comfortably. Some agencies had to be dropped because the desired sample could not be achieved. The questionnaire was semi-structured.

Respondent Profile

Management Levels: 18% Junior level; 43% Middle level; 33% Senior level & 6% Top level

Experience wise: Less than 5 years: 34%; 5-10 years: 31% & 10 years+: 35%

Geography: Mumbai: 43%; Delhi/NCR: 33%; Bengaluru: 10%; Chennai: 7% & Kolkata: 7%
('Southern India' in the report denotes Bengaluru+Chennai)

There were a total of 27 statements which fell under nine parameters that covered all major aspects of working life in an agency. The tenth parameter, 'Overall', with four statements, was the one which determined the final ranking of both creative and media agencies. Respondents reacted to each statement on a five-point scale where 1 = Completely Disagree and 5 = Completely Agree.

Each cluster, encapsulated the following areas:

Culture and Values:
1. My agency is performance oriented & expects high standards
2. My agency cares about our well-being & treats us with respect
3. Collaboration & cooperation between teams is encouraged
4. The environment in my agency is positive & relatively apolitical - people generally tend to trust each other
5. I believe my agency is fair, honest and transparent

Common Purpose
1. I am aware of our agency goal & I believe that I am helping in reaching there

1. Internal communication in my agency is open, regular & honest
2. Management listens to & is open to the opinions of its employees

My Team:
1. My goals & responsibilities are clearly communicated to me
2. My manager is open to suggestions & ideas from me & my team
3. I feel part of an effective team
4. I have confidence in the leadership of my agency

My Job:
1. I have the independence and flexibility to do my job well
2. There is a healthy balance between my personal & working life
3. My job gives me a sense of personal achievement

Learning and Development:
1. There is adequate training to develop my knowledge and skills
2. I am encouraged to try new innovative ways of doing things
3. I am satisfied with my growth opportunities in this organisation
4. I believe that I have a clear planned career path in my company

Performance and Feedback:
1. I understand how my performance is measured
2. I get regular feedback on my performance
3. I believe that my assessment is fair

Reward and Recognition:
1. Success is celebrated regularly in my agency
2. I am paid at par with Industry standards
3. I get recognition when I do a good job

Physical environment & Amenities:
1. The interiors of the company help in improving productivity
2. I am satisfied with the basic amenities provided (examples: washroom, canteen, transport etc.)

1. I am proud of the output of my agency
2. I want to go the extra mile to help my agency succeed
3. I feel a sense of pride in my agency
4. I would recommend my agency to my friends

(The online survey was conducted between October 15-December 31, 2012.)

To download the PDF version of the report, click here.

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