Compensation Sensations.

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Adpulp reports on an article from the Seattle Times discussing entry level salaries in the ad business:

In general, entry-level compensation in the advertising industry “has really slipped behind other industries,” said Elizabeth Zea, partner at Gilbert and Company, a New York-based management consultancy and executive recruiting firm focused on marketing companies.

Starting salaries in the Teach For America program and the Internal Revenue Service — let alone consumer packaged goods, management consulting or investment banking — are higher than pay for average entry-level assistant account executives. Those jobs pay about $28,000 to $35,000 a year, Zea said.

Meanwhile, individuals fluent in both digital media and business and marketing strategy are the most sought-after and can earn much more for their skills.

“Those are the toughest people to find, and they tend to get a premium when you can find them in terms of salary,” she said.

Starting salaries are difficult to peg down.  While the salary for an Creative Director or an Account Supervisor can be fairly standard by city and size of agency, the entry level group tends to be wildly variant, depending on time of year and based on supply and demand (such as in May, when there are tons of entry level, degree holding kids available, as opposed to six months later when companies have an urgent need for more hands based on new business or attrition).

To hear it from Mr. Bing, $28,000 a year for entry-level is not at all bad.  10-15 years ago entry level was $17,000 to $21,000 in major advertising agencies, for media and account service (I know this from my own experience starting out as a broadcast media coordinator).  So the dial has indeed moved along with inflation, although statistics bearing inflation vs. salary numbers are hard to track down, and besides, I’m a creative spirit.  Statistics make my eyes roll back into my head.

A couple of days ago I posted this question to LinkedIn to get a feel for what others thought. 

 Are advertising agencies behind the market curve for entry-level salaries?

The Seattle Times (via Adpulp) has reported a story that advertising starting salaries for entry level folks are below the market. I have an associate HR Director for an agency who tells me entry level for agencies nationally, except New York, is right around $28,000, and would maybe climb to $30,000 for a really talented creative.
What’s your agency standard for entry level? Do you think advertising is behind the curve, as an industry?

Here are some of the responses:

Lynn O’Connell wrote:  I don’t think agencies are behind the curve, as that would suggest a change is on the horizon. Entry-level advertising jobs have always been low paying compared to other fields in boom times and in recessions. Since so many people want entry-level positions at agencies, it is classic supply and demand – entry-level salaries are kept down by the competition.As people gain experience and can demonstrate their ability to make money for clients, the market dynamic flips entirely. Highly experienced and effective advertising pros are always in demand… which leads to higher salaries.Two other factors:
* ad agencies run on very thin profit margins. In order to afford to pay the experienced talent, they have to keep salaries down on entry-level jobs.

* changing technology has eliminated the need for many of the traditional entry-level jobs. We used to have hordes of interns and entry-level staffers just to produce proofs, mock them up, pack them up, send to clients, get notes back, log notes, file proofs, and then start the process again. Now? The art director saves the file to a PDF and the account manager posts or emails it. A whole lot of assistant jobs have disappeared in the last decade.

Bob Adler wrote:  Even in NYC, the starting salary hovers around $30k for the large agencies, but I don’t know if that’s true of digital specialist agencies. Since they are competing for the best and the brightest, they may be offering more (on the other hand, their cool factor is +100%)…

From a personal perspective, these responses were from candidates who’d more recently been on the entry level side of things:

Jacqui Garcia wrote:  I think the salaries paid in entry level positions vary dramatically from those on the “creative” side and those on the “account” side. Reason being, when I was a Junior at BBDO in NYC, I started out at 35k, and that was in 1995!

Thomas Shaw wrote:  Advertising seems to have its own curve when it comes to salaries. It’s unfortunate but as a recent graduate from college I worked in advertising for several years at a very low pay grade. Much lower than any averages.

That being said, many people think Advertising is a creative job and working in that environment you meet a lot of creative people. However, account people/teams use the coordinators as runners, note takers, job pushers, etc.. The low pay is actually, and I hate to say it, fair for the work…

…Is the pay low, yes…
Is it on par with other agencies, usually…
Is it justifiable, when utilized as mentioned above, yes.
Was it painful to be that underpaid… Yes…

And a teacher of advertising students tells me the industry may be losing out on good talent because of the money:

Michael Maloney wrote:  You can’t put a price on creativity but good creative recruiters know it when they see it and know when to pay for it. Unfortunately advertising agencies are behind the curve across the country as I’ve found many of my former students deciding to pursue other career opportunities with higher starting salaries.

Finally, Brett McCoy posted a link to the AIGA compensation review  for creative jobs related to design, some very interesting information.  More statistics, but hey, there’s full-color graphs, so my creative brain is engaged.

The next course of this conversation, I suppose, is how did the digital age really affect salaries within advertising?  Traditional advertising continues to lose good talent to the sexier, more cutthroat, better paying world of interactive and emerging media.  Agencies preach integration and holistic, 360° approach to their clients, but as the disparity in salaries for traditional advertising talent and digital continues, they’re preaching to the choir.

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