Top 5 reach lean level

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The five top marketing organizations by U.S. employment have reined in staff cutbacks this year, leaving their aggregate U.S. headcount flat with 2003 (see chart), according to Ad Age estimates. By contrast, the top 5 cut U.S. employment by 4.7% in '03 and 9.4% in '02.

Bureau of Labor Statistics data show employment in advertising and related services stable in '04, down 1% from the '03 average. The top 5 represent 16.2% of the industry.

Worldwide, the five remained level at nearly 211,000, a number likely to grow next year, assuming WPP's deal to buy Grey Global Group goes through. That acquisition could run WPP's worldwide headcount to a leading 68,000.

For the first nine months of '04 , Interpublic's costs for salary and related expenses were up 5.8% to 60.5% of revenue, and Omnicom's salary and service costs climbed 16.8% to 70.5% of revenue. In first-half '04, WPP's staff costs (excluding incentives) were down slightly to 56% of revenue, Publicis' payroll hit 58.4% of revenue vs. 58.8% last year, and Havas' staff costs were 55.8% of revenue vs. 59.5% in '03.

Flat to rising ratios reflect higher payroll, moderate job growth and lower severance than in '03 against revenue depressed by the dollar.

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