If Omnicom Group is any indication, the major Adland holding companies will be holding hybrid remote and in-person annual meetings this year.
Omnicom has announced via its 2021 proxy statement that its annual meeting will take place May 4 in New York but the company is encouraging shareholders to attend virtually.
This year’s proxy includes one shareholder proposal that would require the holding company to post a semi-annual report on its political spending including donations to specific candidates and political ad campaigns created by its agencies for candidates and issues. The proposal also includes payments to trade associations and other “dark money groups” but does not include monies spent on lobbying activities.
The company recommends that shareholders vote against the proposal, citing the fact that the holding company itself does not make political contributions and that those made by its agencies are minimal. It also cited an existing political contributions policy that is posted on its website and that political contributions are already subject to various disclosure regulations. “Given the de minimis nature of any political contributions, the cost of providing disclosure of such amounts on a semiannual basis would far exceed any perceived advantage,” the company stated.
A shareholder resolution filed with the company in January seeking an outside investigation into certain of the firm’s advertising policies is not included in the proxy and will not be voted on shareholders. The resolution sought a probe examining whether the companies’ ad policies are contributing to violations of civil or human rights. The proposal is particularly concerned about the firm’s ad placements on social media and the potential to support voter suppression, white supremacist and other hate groups.
At the time, Omnicom responded that it is “committed to ensuring our client’s ads do not appear next to harmful content on social media platforms while holding them accountable to the ethical standards our clients are demanding and with which we are aligned.”
The company noted that its media management arm Omnicom Media Group formed the Council on Accountable Social Advertising (CASA) in July 2020. That group brings together advertisers, major social platforms and OMG social media specialists “with the goal of accountability and transparency that has existed for decades within other media channels.”
As was the case with many companies, a number of Omnicom executives took voluntary pay cuts as part of the firm’s response to shore up its balance sheet in response to the pandemic. The proxy reports total compensation for CEO John Wren in 2020 of around $11.1 million, down from $19.9 million in 2019. However most of that hit was due to a change in reporting rules where certain stock awards are now reported for the year they are issued, not approved. But for the rules change, Wren’s total 2020 compensation would have been just $600,000 less than the prior year. Wren did take a 55% cut in base salary to $450,000 last year from $1 million in 2019.
The firm also released its full-year 2020 EEOC data which noted that 3.1% of the firm’s executive managers are black, 7.7% are Asian and 5% are Hispanic. The vast majority are White (82.6%) and 49.7% are female.
Six of the company’s nine board directors are female and four board members are Black. Eight of the nine are independent, Chairman and CEO Wren being the exception.