Media agency job numbers shrink for the first time in a decade

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 24 March 2021

Australia's media agencies cut jobs by 5.1% -- about 180 positions -- as bookings fell 15% in 2020, according to the Media Federation of Australia (MFA).

The 2021 MFA Industry Census, conducted in September 2020, recorded the first industry population decline in more than a decade, a direct response to clients putting the breaks on ad spend during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The population settled at 3,703 media agency employees in 2020, a drop of 5.1% from 2019, but still higher than in 2018 (3,684).

“While we expected media agency population to contract in the wake of COVID-induced redundancies, it’s encouraging to see that at a 5.1% drop we remain in a healthier position than other markets," says Peter Horgan, MFA chair and CEO of Omnicom MediaGroup. 

“This was due to our industry pulling together to reduce hours and salaries at the peak of the crisis in a bid to save as many jobs as possible. It’s clear this approach worked.

"Even better, the vacancy rate indicates we’re on the path to regain the majority of those lost jobs. Our industry focus remains retention of talent and protecting our people.”

MFA Census 2021 - 1

The industry experienced a loss of $1.1 billion in media bookings for calendar year 2020, a decline of 15%, according to Standard Media Index (SMI).

Staff turnover fell by 3.9 percentage points as people chose to stay in their current jobs in the face of uncertainty, with regrettable loss at 23.3% (down from 27.2%).

A vacancy rate of 4.1%, registered in the latter half of the year, points to a potential recovery in 2021, backed up by increased media bookings and more positive sentiment among clients and agencies.

More than two-thirds (70%) of the displaced media professionals who joined the MFA Support program, established to support media agency professionals who lost their job due to COVID-19, are now reemployed.

The census also revealed a continuation of the trend towards greater experience among agency employees and an increase in tenure, with 28% of media agency employees having more than 11 years’ experience.

Overall, the average industry experience is now 8.7 years, up from 8.1 years the year prior. Agency tenure is 3.8 years (versus 3.4 years the year before).

The number of women leaders remained the same as the previous Census, with 44% of all management roles held by women.

The representation of women in leadership positions within the industry is higher than the average in the Australian workplace as compared to figures by the Federal Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), which shows that women hold 32.5% of key management positions.

While the pay gap between men and women’s average annual salary widened slightly to 3% from 0%, The MFA says this is a reflection of the higher concentration of men in high-demand roles in the areas of SEO, and the smaller departments of Strategy and Creative Services – and a signal the industry should invest in attracting more women in STEM roles.

SEO, SEM and Analytics are also the areas with the majority of vacancies.

Overall, the MFA says pay parity for like-for-like roles remains a key achievement and a contrast to the Australian national pay gap of 15%, as measured by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).

MFA CEO Sophie Madden: “Despite recording the first population drop in over a decade, other indicators of the health of our industry remained positive, including female representation in senior ranks, greater levels of experience and longer tenure.

"As a snapshot of the health of media agencies, the 2021 Census indicates that we’re well positioned to rebound and grow over 2021.”

MFA census 2021 - 2

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

comments powered by Disqus