IAPI Census points to cautious optimism

Average billings for Ireland’s media agencies were down by 10 per cent to €112 million last year while media revenue in the first six months of 2023 reversed the trend by a similar ratio to €64m compared to the same period last year, the industry’s latest annual analysis by the Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland (IAPI) indicates. The IAPI Census 2023 shows the average agency turnover was up by 21 per cent to €6.46 million last year.

However, in the first six months of this year turnover was up by just four points to €3.6m. The census, which is an important barometer for Ireland’s advertising industry, shows a stark contrast between the fortunes of independent and networked agencies. The creative agencies that go it alone saw turnover drop by 21 per cent in the first six months this year, from an average of €2.31m, compared to the same period in 2023 when the average was €1.8m.


Creative agencies with ties to international networks did considerably better, with overall average income improving by 23 per cent from €4.2m in 2021 to €5.16m last year, while results for the first six months of this year were up by 22 per cent to €2.3m. The total workforce employed by IAPI agencies is put at 2,323, a slight decline on last year, with the highest volume of staff engaged in client services and project management roles.

IAPI says the war on talent, caused in the main by the tech giants, seems to have eased. Talent churn is down year-on-year at an average 10 per cent compared to last year’s 16 per cent. Administration and client services are still seeing high churn at 22 per cent and 18 per cent respectively. The issue of wage inflation remains a problem for the advertising industry with an average seven per cent increase across the board.

The industry is actively recruiting for creative and content creation skills, with 60 per cent of respondents eagerly in search of such specialists. Eight in 10 agencies either have their own diversity and inclusion policy in place or refer to IAPI’s recommendations. While clients would not stipulate that their agencies must have an inclusive and diverse workforce, IAPI members see its importance for their agency culture.

New business still comes mainly from pitch wins. However, events agencies gain almost two thirds of their business with no pitch and independent creative agencies gain a third of new business through their own contacts. Last year an estimated 1,035 pitches went ahead at a cost to agencies of €10m. With each pitch costing an average of €34,290, the impact on already tight margins is crucial, particularly for the smaller, independent agency.


The census was carried out in September and October of this year. As a consequence, it is important to keep in mind that the last quarter of the year is normally the busiest period for advertisers and their agencies, particularly when the Christmas season gets into full swing. Most agencies surveyed expect an increase in both turnover and profitability this year with average profit margins forecast to be in the region of 13 per cent. 
Looking ahead to next year, 90 per cent of those interviewed believe their agency will do as well, if not better than 2023, while almost three in four (72 per cent) of respondents believe that revenues next year will increase. Only five per cent expect revenues to decline. With profit margins of between 12 and 15 per cent for smaller agencies and 20 per cent for bigger agencies, adland continues to live in hope that the economy holds up.

Some 72 per cent of financial, HR and leaders in IAPI agencies participated in the survey.

A report released by audit and advisory firm Azets Ireland (formerly Baker Tilly) listed advertising as one of four industry sectors that accounted for half of all small businesses that needed to be saved as part of the Small Company Administrative Rescue Process (Scarp). Azets said 561 jobs were saved across the four sectors since the launch of Scarp two years ago and they expected the marked increase in demand this year to continue into 2024.

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