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WPP Group Tops in Digital Troops

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With the ad wars increasingly fought on a digital battlefield, it appears that WPP Group has the most troops ready for battle.

Among the major holding companies, WPP is tops in employing digital specialists across its global networks, according to an extensive report issued by Paris-based agency research firm Recma.

The report found that WPP has more than 17,400 digital staffers worldwide. That's just over 12 percent of its total global workforce of 141,000, per WPP's own stats.

The report doesn't comment on the quality of the specialists, just the quantity. But those toiling in the WPP digital space appear to be bringing home more than their fair share of the bacon: the holding company said in its third-quarter earnings update that digital revenues are now "approaching" 30 percent of total revenue.

Though somewhat difficult to qualify, WPP's manpower advantage is significant because it gives the firm's divisions on-hand talent to deploy as current clients bulk up on digital projects and efforts are made to add new business in the sector.

And it looks like creative agencies have the biggest share of digital expertise across the holding companies, with about 50 percent of all digital specialists reporting into them.

At WPP, roughly two-thirds of the digital staffers report into creative ad shops, while about 20 percent report up through media agencies and the rest are part of digital specialist operations, per the Recma study.

Publicis Groupe is No. 2 in terms of total digital staff, the report found, with a total of nearly 12,700 employees in that realm. But in contrast to WPP, about two-thirds of those staffers report up through media agencies, while just 9 percent report into creative agencies, with the rest attached to digital specialists.

Omnicom ranked third in the report, with nearly 8,800 digital employees, about three-quarters of whom report into creative shops while 15 percent work with media agencies and the rest are attached to digital operations.

Interpublic Group is No. 4 with nearly 8,200 digital specialists. Like Omnicom, nearly three-quarters of those employees work with creative agencies while 15 percent report to media agencies and the rest are attached to digital units.

Aegis has nearly 4,000 digital pros and Havas another 3,600 for a grand holding company total of 54,600 digital employees, per Recma. About half, or 27,400, toil in the creative agency space, 35 percent in the media agency sector and the rest at digitally focused units.

As the digital struggle intensifies, look for all combatants to draft reinforcements.