The Agency Issue

Jobs May Not Have Hit '07 Levels, but Salaries Are Crawling Back

Pay, However, Is Much Less Lucrative for Some Sectors of the Biz

By Published on .

We've got good news and we've got bad news.

First, the good: Salaries and bonuses in the industry have gone up, as has job satisfaction. Now the bad: Those salary increases are far less lucrative for some sectors of the ad business than others and nearly a quarter of marketing and advertising employees are considering changing jobs in the next 12 months.

Creative- and production-agency staffers saw the smallest gains over the past two years, while client-side marketers saw the largest. And surprisingly, digital employees saw less of a bump than ad-agency employees in general.

The findings come from a survey commissioned by Ad Age and recruiting agency 24 Seven. The survey was fielded by research firm Inavero from March 28 to April 11 and included more than 3,000 respondents nationwide in the marketing industry.

Who Makes What chart
Source: 24 Seven/AdAge Salary & Job Market Study

The 24 Seven/AdAge Salary & Job Market Study categorized employees by the following: client-side marketing employees; agency-side employees; creative and production employees in agencies; and digital employees in agencies. Age-wise, participants were categorized by generation: millennials, under 25 years old; Generation X, 25 to 44; and baby boomers, 45 to 59.

Staffers specializing in creative and production in agencies saw the smallest increase, 8%, in average pay in 2011 vs. 2009, the last time the survey was conducted. That's a fairly impressive number given the state of the job market and the fact that the economy is still recovering. But compare it to the client-side category -- which shows a 30% pay increase in 2011 over 2009 -- and a disparity becomes clear. Overall, agency employees saw a healthy pay hike, with a 24.4% bump between the trough of the recession, 2009, and today. Those in a digital capacity saw an average 14% pay hike.

"Salary, bonuses and commissions really flattened out during the recession, so what we're seeing here is normalization, the market coming out of doom and gloom," said Celeste Gudas, president of 24 Seven. "Data would lead me to believe that companies and agencies are making up for down years," and the biggest raises and bonuses are going to "folks who are driving the business," or the high-up strategic thinkers.

Of course, the increases could "lead to some dissatisfaction amongst the ranks," said Ms. Gudas. "It doesn't seem like distribution is even." Across all the age groups, the single biggest reason why respondents would look for a new job is still because of pay, the survey showed.

It's important to point out, though, that satisfaction and loyalty are not one and the same. For most respondents, job satisfaction is linked to other factors, and depends on age. For boomers, meaningful and challenging work was the most important factor, while the millennials preferred skill development and training.

"People are not all that loyal to their jobs," said Ms. Gudas. She suspects some are skittish for fear their companies are not loyal to them. And with employment in the industry still not back up to pre-recession levels, employees are being asked to take on more work, which means more hours.

Those who were most open to changing their jobs? Employees in creative or production capacities. Part of that could be because they saw the lowest increase in salary, but Ms. Gudas pointed out that freelance workers are being increasingly used, most frequently for executional jobs. In short, what it means is those who execute the work -- not those who create ideas, lead or strategize -- are valued less.

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