Media Week's salary survey 2011: are you being paid enough?

After a slow start to 2010, pay and recruitment freezes were lifted and salaries started to increase, particularly in digital and among media owner staff with one to five years' experience. Media recruitment firm Sylex analyses industry remuneration trends over the last two years

Money, money money: media owner employees, particularly in digital, were remunerated more generously than media agencies in 2010
Money, money money: media owner employees, particularly in digital, were remunerated more generously than media agencies in 2010

In the industry’s annus horribilis of 2009, the savage economic downturn prompted restructures at many media agencies and media owners in an attempt to cut costs.

The recession also enabled media businesses to shed high earners, trim or cancel bonuses and bring salaries in line with the overall market.

However, after a slow start to 2010, the recruitment market began to warm up and pay and recruitment freezes were lifted.

Here, Media Week presents media recruitment company Sylex’s comparison of 2010 and 2008 salaries [due to no change in 2009] and its analysis of remuneration trends at media agencies and media owners.

Media owners

Last year proved a year of two halves for media owners, still suffering from restructuring and redundancies and the continuing tough economy.

The mood in the first six months was cautious, reflected by low recruitment activity, but confidence returned from July when permanent hiring increased dramatically. Growth on the media owner side has been consistently driven by digital, which has proved largely immune to cutbacks.

Most of the jobs that became available over 2010 were at junior or account manager level, since companies have needed foot soldiers to go out and do the advertising deals, as well as juniors to handle the administrative tasks.

There have been fewer senior roles available due to cutbacks, and in some cases experienced candidates have had to take a step backwards in terms of job title and remuneration to remain in the industry.

Graduate positions have become scarcer and salaries have not changed hugely, with the lowest salary offered rising from £16,000 in 2008 to £17,800 in 2010.

But salaries have changed significantly for those with one to three years’ experience at a media owner, rising by double-digit percentages in some cases. This is due to the lack of investment in graduates in recent years, creating a shortage of candidates at this level.

The scarcity of talent has also allowed those with five years’ experience to command greater salary increases, either through promotion or changing company. For example, the new high for an account manager in the digital sector is £50,000, compared to £30,000+ in traditional media.

At the senior levels, salaries have only risen in digital media or for those moving from broadcast to video-on-demand. There have been fewer director-level jobs available, either through cutbacks or money being redirected into more junior roles.

Finally, bonuses and commissions have not changed significantly, although bonus incentives for managing directors are lower than in previous years. More online companies are offering 100% on-target earnings at account manager level, whereas traditional media roles continue to offer up to 60% OTE.

Candidates were reluctant to move jobs in 2010 as there was still a feeling of insecurity. However, Sylex expects more media sales people to start to seek new opportunities over the next 12 months. Media owners are increasing their sales targets and, in order for companies to meet these targets, they will need the staff in place to bring in the business and maintain it.

Media Owner Salaries 2010
Title/Level Average Low High
Graduate (No experience)  £18,250 £17,800 £21,000
Sales Executive (6-12 months)  £24,000 £21,000 £26,000
Senior Sales Executive (1-3 years)  £29,300 £26,000 £35,000
Account Manager (3-6 years)  £40,367 £32,000 £50,000
Group Head (4-6 years)  £53,278 £45,000 £65,000
Account Director (6+ years)  £69,167 £45,000 £89,000
Sales Director/Controller (10+ years)  £87,050 £80,000 £100,000
Managing Director  £123,333 £110,000 £140,000

Media agencies

The bad news is that no major salary increases have been noted at media agencies over the last two years. In fact, average salaries have come down at almost all levels since 2008, as a direct result of agencies cutting top-level earners in 2009 and bringing in staff on relatively low pay-packets during 2010.

Entry-level salaries have remained steady for several years, with no notable increases. The only exception is at the junior one- to two-year experience level, where there has been an increase of approximately 5%.

This recent increase at the one to two-year level is a direct result of companies not hiring grads or junior members of staff over the last two years. This has created a gap in the market for capable junior planner/buyers, which has in turn led to an increase in salaries to tempt the few good candidates available.

The average salary of middle and senior managers has decreased slightly, as have the differentials between the lowest and highest salaries paid for individual positions. For example, the ‘high’ salary level for an agency group head in 2008 was £95,000 and is now £85,000, a decrease of more than 10%.

However, senior remuneration packages have increased, with the average salary in this bracket jumping from £91,125 in 2008 to £93,398 in 2010. The highest salary recorded by Sylex has also increased, from £145,000 to £160,000.

Sylex expects market conditions to continue to strengthen in 2011, which will result in a greater need for agency staff and natural salary increases at all levels.

Media Agency Salaries 2010
Title/Level Average Low High
Graduate (No experience)  £18,300 £18,000 £20,000
Assistant (6-12 months)  £20,472 £18,000 £23,000
Planner/Buyer (1-2 years)  £24,806 £20,000 £30,000
Planner/Buyer (2-3 years)  £25,947 £22,000 £32,000
Planner/Buyer (3-4 years)  £31,250 £24,000 £42,000
Manager (4-6 years)  £40,154 £29,500 £58,000
Group Head/A.D. (6+ years)  £56,192 £44,000 £85,000
Client/Media/Business Director  £93,398 £60,000 £160,000

Salaries have been calculated using Sylex Recruitment’s 2010 database, which logged every candidate interviewed and every job brief handled by the company last year (field size of approximately 1,000). The results therefore cover the majority of the Top 20 media agencies, as well as independent agencies, and take account of a range of specialist roles, including digital and international positions.

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