Published on .

Griping about agency pay is surely subdued in the West.

The West leads in CEO and media director pay, and is second or tied for second in base pay for creative director, art director, chief copywriter and account exec. It scores highest in pay raises for each position.

The higher salaries are not a reflection of a higher standard of living that might require a salary upgrade, since living expenses in the West, especially compared with the East, are less.

High salaries also aren't typically an expression of the quality of life (and the West says it is high on quality), since high salaries would not be required to lure people to Eden.


But people retention, supply and demand, therein lies the rub. "We just don't have that many ad people here, and those that we have often want to work in the major ad markets of Chicago or New York," says Barbara Bradshaw, president of INS Advertising, a 20-person agency in Portland, Ore. "We must pay more to find qualified people."

All this is relative within a market. The West, for example, has a phalanx of small, highly specialized shops in micromarkets that boost the pay scale. An example: the high-tech agencies feeding off the high-tech accounts in Silicon Valley.


"I attended a seminar for small agencies recently and was amazed at the low salaries being quoted by most participants," says Robert Kuhar, VP general manager, principal at techno-driven Lena Chow Advertising, Palo Alto, Calif.

"Account execs we hire must have a degree in biochemistry, biology or chemistry. Otherwise, our clients-doctors, researchers, chemists-will laugh at them."

The West also ranks among the highest in bonuses paid to five of seven agency posts. These bonuses in '96, viewed as a percentage of base pay, were 24% creative director, 15% art director, 8% copywriter, 12% media director and 18% account exec.

A quarter of Western agencies tie bonuses to operational goals, good for employees since operations are strong. For example, 44% of West responses place growth in '96 gross income at 10% or better, highest among regions. Employment is up at 48% of the West's agencies, slightly lower than reported in other markets.

The tendency in the region to push the bonus share of base pay higher than raise increases is tied to the recession in the early '90s that gripped the West longer than other regions.

Most Popular
In this article: