4A's Survey Finds Drop in Billing Rates For Senior-Level Ad Execs

Rates Rise For Digital, Social and Analytics Jobs As Demand Grows

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The 4A's released its Labor Billing Rate Survey Report today that benchmarks hourly rates for roles in the ad industry, and the short take is this: It's a great time for those in web, social and analytics. For top dogs, on the other hand, things have been better.

The survey, which was previously released in 2012 and reflected 2011 hourly rates, includes 125 pages on 2014 hourly rates for positions including creative, account management, digital, media services, analytics and others. This year's report reflects a few changes in data collection, particularly a bigger census size (the 4A's used to ask for one weight average rate per position, but this time asked for three actual rates, yielding about three times the responses -- 32,000 rates instead of 2011's 9,700 rates).

The findings show billing rates for senior execs took a hit: comparing the reports from 2011 and 2015, hourly rates decreased from $784 to $660 for director of client service; $1,000 to $861 for chief creative officer; and $626 to $605 for exec director of account planning.

Interestingly, the largest agencies charge more than smaller agencies for senior and executive-level positions, but smaller agencies charge more than larger agencies for mid and junior-level positions. The operative thought, said Tom Finneran, exec VP-agency management services at the 4A's, is that smaller agencies have fewer than a hundred people, so the core positions are apt to be people who have a broader range of responsibilities than at a larger agencies where there are more layers in the hierarchy. So, if you're a mid or junior-level employee at a smaller agency, you'll have more to do and be compensated better than if you are at a larger agency equivalent. (An art director could be billed $136 per hour at the largest agencies and $150 at smaller agencies.)

Those entering adland for jobs in web, social media and analytics are coming at the right time -- rates at the largest agencies increased with demand for talent. Comparing the reports from 2011 and 2015, hourly rates increased from $111 to $122 per hour for creative bloggers; from $169 to $177 for senior web developers; from $129 to $137 for digital designers; from $247 to $283 for director of content management; from $284 to $290 for director of marketing analytics; from $181 to $201 for technical lead; and from $97 to $136 for social-media strategist.

Several hourly rates remained consistent. At the largest agencies, the mid-average rates for account execs were $98 in the 2012 report and $97 in this year's report; associate media director was $164 in 2012 and $166 this year; media buyer was $89 in 2012 and $87 this year; senior art director was $176 in 2012 and $178 this year; and senior copywriter remained at $175 in both reports.

This year's report included responses from 326 agencies on 115 positions within 16 service departments. Agencies included Ogilvy & Mather, BBDO, Grey, JWT, McCann and Leo Burnett as well as shops such as 72andSunny and the Martin Agency.

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