Cinema Advertising Public Relations Feature

Salary Survey - Getting a raw deal?

By The Drum | Administrator

August 16, 2007 | 8 min read

Analysis from 18 recruitment companies

The pull of London, and the associated cost of living, is a factor that not only distorts salary figures – which in real terms can be misleading – but also creates a practical gap that puts Watford’s to shame. The realities of transportation for instance has seen virtual island communities emerge, areas such as those we have seen forming in the south west. Energetic professionals are turning their back on the grind of the M4 corridor, and settling into rewarding lifestyles where their hard earned salaries can buy them comfort, space, and affordable living. And of course there’s surfing too, so why put up with the fug of the capital? The result is a micro-market community that creates a virtuous circle of employment and rising salaries, self reliant and independent from the London ring.

For many firms, the digital sector is still an area of development, but it is the south-west that is doing most to attract the top talent right from the outset, offering online developers and designers the most attractive starting pay packets. A developer in that region can expect to be paid almost £4,000 more than a developer in the north-east. The digital sector has been the main growth area over the past 12 months, and demand for web designers and developers continues to soar, according to Blue Skies. “In the regions, the volume of candidates with these skills remains low, and as a result, the increased demand is pushing salaries higher than traditional offline skills,” said a Blue Skies spokesman. This contrasts heavily with the over-abundance of equivalent sector workers in London, where oversupply allows companies to keep certain salary levels lower.

It is Scotland, however, that attracts the highest salaries for client-side marketing bosses. Marketing directors in Scotland – in both SMEs and blue chip clients – are earning head and shoulders above their peers down south. A marketing director in Scotland can expect to pocket £72,500 per annum, while their colleagues south of the border in Yorkshire - can expect just £55,300; a staggering difference of over £17,000.

Despite the lifestyle and value for money advantages of working outside the M25 metropolitan bullseye, in strict monetary terms, Scotland and Yorkshire appear to be the areas to attract the lowest salary for those at the top of the food chain in the design and advertising sectors. £62,000 is the expected salary for a design MD, compared to £69,000 in the north-east. For an ad agency MD it is £68,300, compared to £76,600 in the north-west. The lowest paid region overall appears to be the north-east. Scotland, Yorkshire and the north-east collectively pay between 2 and 3 percent below the expected norm for the key centres outside London.

Scotland, again, seems to afford the lowest salaries for those working in PR – especially for those starting out in the industry – £15,800 compared to £17,500 in the Midlands for a novice account executive. Overall, Blue Skies has seen evidence that salaries are rising in areas such as the Midlands, south-west and north, but not to the same degree as in London and the south-east.

While, from other results of the survey it is clear that Scotland cannot match the salaries on offer in every sector, there are other reasons for staff to stay or move there, according to Kathrine Goodwin, senior consultant at Denholm Associates.

“Scotland can’t, and doesn’t, compete with London salaries, but candidates looking to move up here, for a move home or lifestyle reasons, are realistic about that, and often the discrepancy isn’t as wide as the perception,” she says.

“We find there are many strong senior-level candidates looking to move here, but there is an ambivalence about Scotland among a younger candidate market. Perhaps we should be doing more to promote the dynamism of the Scottish marketplace – particularly within the creative and digital industries – to attract high flyers at an earlier stage in their careers?”

Blue Skies tracked a gradual increase in the number of vacancies throughout the whole of 2006 and, during the last quarter, saw evidence of salary levels rising, but on a more gradual basis than may have been expected. However, the salaries themselves, whilst important, is not the only relevant consideration, and the prospect of a greater wage in another region does not necessarily appeal to every creative, which is why individual regions have their own flourishing sectors.

“Salary is obviously a key factor but very rarely is it the only driver behind a move,” says Goodwin. “Those clichés of ‘career progression’ and ‘a fresh challenge’ are so often true.”

“It’s highly unlikely that a candidate would want to take a drop in salary, unless they’re changing career direction. And, of course, sometimes candidates are compelled to move through disillusionment or circumstances beyond their control like redundancy. But generally speaking, people will change jobs for positive rather than negative reasons,” she says.

Recent years have seen rising interest in not-for-profit and public sector vacancies. The decision to move into a more ‘ethical’ career is becoming a growing trend among employees across many disciplines, especially PR. Clearly these opportunities offer interested candidates a level of motivation, which other sectors will struggle to match. Further proving that money really isn’t everything, candidates are continuing to show an interest in non-monetary benefits, and clients are reacting to this well. Such benefits are proving to be a major driving force in pushing the average time spent in a job from two to three and a half years.

Money talks, but it isn’t everything. Otherwise no one would want to work outside London. Flourishing micro economies exist in Leeds, the West Country, central Scotland and across the Tyne/Tees region, each with their own unique culture of supply and demand dictating salary levels on a sector by sector basis. The brightest talent can shine anywhere in the UK, with the quality of life significant for some, cost of living for others. It paints a more nuanced creative map of the UK. In addition to those factors, the data from the recruitment companies also reveals that candidates are considering factors more subtle than salary to help them decide whether or not to move.

“Other factors that have proven successful for clients in attracting the UK\'s best talent include demonstrating a real fit between the applicant and their company culture,” says Blue Skies. “Though this can be somewhat anecdotal, a company\'s culture can often be symbolised in the soft benefits that it offers. Specific lifestyle benefits such as remote working, gym membership and flexi-time are all examples of companies promoting their culture, while also creating points of difference for would-be employees.”

What became clear for one recruitment consultancy, from data gathered during 2006, is that candidates with proven agency backgrounds are increasingly able to command a premium salary, but will also consider other factors before selecting a new employer.

“These factors include the management of the recruitment process itself,” says a spokesperson for Blue Skies. “Applicants make a connection between how they are treated during the actual process and how they would enjoy being an employee of the agency. Needless to say, a structured and personal approach pays dividends in being able to attract your ideal candidate.”

There is also evidence that candidates are increasingly attracted to organisations that provide a clear structure for career progression. Rather than simply considering their next role, an increasing number are now looking as far as five years ahead. Denholm Associates’ Goodwin offers practical advice to anyone thinking about a move.

“Candidates should be clear about the reasons why they want to move and - circumstances allowing - take their time to make sure the move is right for them,” says Goodwin. “Use the internet and trade press and speak to people who have worked with or at your prospective employer. But take personal accounts with a pinch of salt – not every company suits all. Ensure you see the environment where you’ll be working, and if possible go out with your potential co-workers on an informal basis.”

To reinforce the view that factors other than bottom line salary are crucial in any employment decision, Goodwin’s parting advice is to look at the wider picture when evaluating your present role.

“Personality clashes are so often the underlying reason for workplace unhappiness, so making sure you’ll fit into the team is vital. It is all about commonsense really.

“Don’t just blindly jump into a new job because you’re getting a £10K pay rise. Money really isn’t everything - and that’s from a recruitment consultant.”

The recruitment specialists who supplied the data for The Drum analysis were:

Adam Recruitment Limited; AF Selection; Agency Moves Ltd; Better Placed Recruitment; Big Fish Recruitment; Blue Skies Recruitment; Concept Personnel Limited; Creyfs Recruitment; Denholm Associates; Goddard Gadd; Logical Resources; Mackenzie Jones; Michael Page International; Network Sales & Marketing; Orchard; Pitch Consultants; Steve Cooper Recruitment Ltd; True Careers

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