Survey finds salaries, hiring on the rise at b-to-b agencies

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Salaries at b-to-b agencies increased this year over last year, with the strongest gains in senior management, media and interactive positions, according to recent salary surveys and interviews with agency executives.

The 14th annual compensation survey of ad agencies, conducted by Irwin Broh & Associates for Advertising Age, found the average CEO salary at b-to-b agencies jumped 36% this year to $210,000, from $154,000 in 2004. With bonuses, the total salary at the CEO level this year will be $237,000, up 25% from $189,000 in 2004.

The survey was based on 172 responses from ad agency execs, with 23 responses from agencies that identified their primary business as b-to-b. Advertising Age is a sibling publication of BtoB , published by Crain Communications Inc.

"With such a small sample size [in the b-to-b subset], the findings are directional," said Dave Waitz, president of Irwin Broh.

"Base salaries appear to be up this year versus last year, and some of them are quite large," he said.

Other positions at b-to-b agencies that saw large salary increases this year were CFOs, whose base salary jumped from an average $90,000 in 2004 to $137,000 in 2005; creative directors, whose base salary increased from an average $93,000 in 2004 to $106,000 in 2005; and media directors, whose base salary jumped from an average $60,000 in 2004 to $80,000 in 2005, according to the study.

Hiring increases

The study also looked at hiring trends at ad agencies. This year, 39% of b-to-b agencies said they would have larger staffs than last year (compared with 37% of those surveyed in 2004); 35% said they would have smaller staffs (compared with 26% in 2004); and 26% said their staff size would remain the same (compared with 37% in 2004).

TalentZoo, an online job site and consulting firm for ad agencies, said the greatest salary increases were being seen in the positions of interactive media director and strategy/client services director, both of which are up about 11% this year.

Other job positions that are recording salary increases this year are account management supervisor (up 8% to 10%); account planning directors (up 9%) and associate creative director (up 4%). TalentZoo does not break out b-to-b agencies.

"Anything interactive continues to lead the pack in demand and then, in turn, increased salaries," said Amy Hoover, exec VP at TalentZoo.

"A lot of the increases in demand are filling back out the pre-dot-bomb level. Clients have more robust marketing budgets, so agencies feel comfortable adding full-time staff to service those needs."

Agency execs agreed that hiring and salaries are up this year as they fill out positions to handle client needs.

B-to-b agency Slack Barshinger, Chicago, has hired 21 employees so far this year, not counting interns, compared with 21 in all of 2004.

"With six weeks to go in the year, I'd say we're hiring at the same or perhaps a slightly higher pace than we did in 2004. Our staff size is now 70; 79 with interns and freelancers," said Gary Slack, chairman and chief experience officer at Slack Barshinger.

He also said salaries have increased an average of 6% to 8% over last year, which is on par with last year's increases.

"The people in greatest demand are mid- and senior-level account managers, especially folks with DM/DR [direct marketing-direct response] experience," Slack said.

Sarah Fay, president of Isobar U.S., which is part of U.K.-based Aegis Group, said the agency is hiring seasoned executives with search marketing experience.

"They can write their own ticket," she said. 

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