John Wren Tops the List of Ad World's Big Earners

Head of Omnicom Group Brings Home $10.4 Million

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NEW YORK ( -- John Wren, head of Omnicom Group, the largest marketing-services conglomerate, was again the top earner among the masters of the ad universe, bringing home $10.4 million in total compensation for 2007. That was down some $3 million, however, from Mr. Wren's total compensation in 2006, a drop that allowed Interpublic Group of Cos.' top executive, Michael Roth, to narrow the gap as his pay jumped to a total of $8.9 million.

These figures, based on recently filed proxy statements, only partially account for how the executives fill their coffers. For instance, Mr. Wren in February pocketed more than $10 million by cashing in stock options, a take that isn't included in the compensation figure on the proxy statement. Regulations governing executive pay transparency differ by jurisdiction. For this roundup, Ad Age used figures drawn directly from summary compensation tables included in holding companies' filed proxy statements and annual reports. Total compensation generally includes base salary, nonequity incentive-plan payouts, the value of stock and option awards, and other compensation-like benefits and perquisites.

While there were few egregious perks, holding companies last year still contributed to gym memberships for executives, travel expenses for spouses such as Mrs. John Dooner and a New York apartment for London-based WPP Group Chief Executive Martin Sorrell.

Base salaries in 2007 generally held steady or climbed slightly -- in sync with overall business trends. While no outrageous salaries turned up, at least by the standards of big business in the U.S., the holding-company chiefs are doing better than the CEO of your average large corporation. Median CEO pay last year among S&P 500 companies increased 3% between 2006 and 2007, rising from $1 million to $1.03 million, according to a study released last month by Equilar, a Redwood Shores, Calif.-based executive-compensation-research firm. Average total compensation was $8.8 million.

"CEO pay growth has slowed down a bit, linked to economic conditions," said Equilar spokesman Alexander Cwirko-Godycki. "Bonuses were down almost across the board in most industries."

Raise for Sorrell
As of Jan. 1, 2007, Mr. Sorrell's base salary was increased by WPP to $2 million from $1.5 million -- his first salary raise since September 1999. Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy's base salary was $1.2 million, while Aegis Group CEO Robert Lerwill had a base salary of $1.3 million. Mr. Roth's rose slightly in 2007 to $1.13 million from $1.1 million in 2006, and Havas CEO Fernando Rodés Vilà made $980,000. Omnicom's Mr. Wren's base salary held steady at $1 million.

Among the chiefs of the agencies themselves, McCann Worldgroup Chairman-CEO John Dooner, who was CEO of parent Interpublic from 2001 to 2003, took home top billings among the agency executives whose salaries were publicly disclosed. He was the second-highest-paid executive at Interpublic, raking in $5.9 million in total compensation -- a $1 million overall boost compared with 2006 figures. Kevin Roberts, chairman-CEO of Publicis' Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, took in a total of $4.1 million in 2007, according to company filings.

Tom Harrison, chairman-CEO of Omnicom's Diversified Agency Services division, brought home $4.9 million in 2007, more than his counterpart at sibling BBDO Worldwide, which topped Ad Age's latest ranking of agencies by U.S. revenue. That executive, President-CEO Andrew Robertson, took home $4.57 million in 2007. Over at Omnicom's DDB Worldwide, President-CEO Chuck Brymer made $3.9 million last year, up from $3.3 million in 2006.

Publicis Groupe Media Chairman Jack Klues made $2.5 million. Aegis Media CEO Mainardo de Nardis and former Aegis Media Americas CEO David Verklin -- who are both defecting from the media network -- made a total of $1.6 million and $1.23 million, respectively, in 2007.

Among chief financial officers at the holding-company level, Omnicom's Randy Weisenburger earned a whopping $8.1 million in total compensation last year, double his Interpublic counterpart, Frank Mergenthaler, whose total compensation last year jumped to $4.3 million compared with $2.9 million in 2006. Philippe Krakowsky, exec VP-strategy and corporate relations at Interpublic, had total compensation of $2.6 million.

Pay information for the heads of Interpublic's other two ad-agency networks, DraftFCB's Howard Draft and Lowe Worldwide's Stephen Gatfield, wasn't included in the public filings, nor was the compensation of Tom Carroll, head of Omnicom's TBWA Worldwide. Executive pay disclosures are still somewhat discretionary according to Securities and Exchange Commission rules, and omission from proxy statement guidance doesn't necessarily correspond to salary size.

Perks such as tickets for sporting and music events are "a bit of a mixed bag at this point. ... There are ... some areas where companies are cutting back," said Equilar's Mr. Cwriko-Godycki. Other perks, such as financial-planning assistance, are growing more popular.

Interpublic discontinued club and car allowances for top executives in 2007, shifting those fees to salary. Financial planning is a common perk among execs there, while for McCann's Mr. Dooner, perks include use of a company car and driver, as well as travel expenses for his spouse, according to the proxy data.

Benefits last year for Messrs. Wren and Weisenburger at Omnicom included personal use of aircraft and a car allowance. Mr. Weisenburger also received a $2,093 health-club membership, while BBDO's Mr. Robertson was privy to travel expenses, an auto lease, club dues and legal services.
Source: Public filings

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Contributing: Bradley Johnson
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