Creative Execs' Salaries Surge in Adland, Survey Finds

But Bigger Bucks no Longer Equal Workplace Happiness, as Job-Satisfaction Criteria Shift

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Creative executives are a hot commodity at a time when every marketer is looking for big ideas that can boost sales. All that demand means agencies are digging deep in their pockets to compensate the creative department, according to recruitment firm 24 Seven's annual Salary and Job Market study.

Source: 24 Seven
Source: 24 Seven

The poll of more than 2,000 ad professionals found that 72% of creative execs surveyed saw their total compensation increase in 2013, compared with 69% in 2012. Salaries rose 5.5% on average, compared with last year's lift of less than 4.8%. And more creatives got bumps than those in other roles this year -- a shift from 2012, when there were fewer salary increases for creative executives in comparison with other positions such as account planners or strategists.

The most in-demand creative positions, unsurprisingly, were rooted in digital or mobile. Among them: user experience designer, interactive art director and mobile user interface designer.

Creatives may be more in demand than their agency peers, but that doesn't mean they're satisfied in their jobs. The survey found that as many as 70% of staffers are open to new opportunities and 47% of executives say they would prefer a new job at a new company. They also don't feel the love: Only 50% of executives in creative roles feel their current position is in high demand, compared with 83% in digital roles and 63% in account management, according to the survey.

Executives at 24 Seven attribute the discrepancy in low satisfaction and high demand to a lag on the hyperfocus on digital. The industry is hiring fewer digital-specific roles, since all efforts and positions require digital skills, and instead is looking for creative talent to help develop strategy and generate big ideas. So the growing demand for creative talent will eventually lead to greater confidence among creatives.

"Creatives are still feeling a lot of the broken promises of the recession era," said 24 Seven CEO Celeste Gudas. But with a greater awareness of the ROI of creativity in business strategy, talent is finding more success bargaining. "It's an indication that there's growing confidence in the creative space," Ms. Gudas said.

According to the company's analysis, marketers are now emphasizing to a greater degree ideas and creative content across platforms, online and offline. Even so, despite the heightened value of creative executives, total combined compensation remained higher for other types of execs, such as account managers.

24 Seven's findings suggested that creatives care a lot about being financially rewarded, but also want to feel appreciated for hard work and long hours.

"For creatives, it's not just all about the money," the report said. "Creatives today want to feel valued. While their salaries are increasing, they are not getting the same share of bonus pools and other monetary forms of compensation (stock, options, etc). Companies should show creatives love through a variety of monetary means as well as benefit packages that enhance work-life balance and training."

This year's survey found that both employers and employees weren't as concerned about compensation as corporate culture, said Ms. Gudas. The survey found that managers understand compensation isn't necessarily the No. 1 benefit; they need to implement structures that foster career growth and mentoring.

"There's a shift in how satisfaction is being measured by talent," Ms. Gudas said. "It's something that came up last year, but the interesting thing is that senior management seems aligned that it's an issue this year. That's something new for us."

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