I’ve seen all sorts of people get paid all sorts of amounts in the creative side of advertising, so I thought I’d detail some of the routes to mad cheddar that I’m aware of.
1. Move agencies. This gives many people the opportunity to lie about what they earn, then get paid a bit more than that. Of course, being poached to work in a new agency is the best situation, as the poaching agency will pay more to entice you, but that’s not the easiest situation to engineer. The agency of your dreams may be full, or they may not like your particular style of work, so if you want the money you may have to go somewhere you’re less attracted to. It goes without saying that the less appealing agencies will pay a premium to get in good people because they have to compensate for the fact that they’ll be working on worse briefs and duller clients. So a general rule of thumb is: the worse the agency’s reputation for creativity, the more they pay. But now the more fashionable agencies don’t really produce much better work than the others I’d have thought that this premium isn’t what it used to be (perhaps a kindly reader could enlighten us on this point).
2. Win awards. Even though awards and cash don’t correlate exactly, shiny prizes can lead to a raise from your current boss or bring you the chance to move agencies (see above). Many places that cast around for new creative staff quite reasonably look at who has done the most famous/awarded recent work, but within that the person doing the hiring has to look at other factors: was this a world-class ad at the beginning of a career (take a chance on potential), the middle of an otherwise unsuccessful career (possibly a fluke), or part of a consistent track record of excellence (reliable greatness=expensive)? Was it over-awarded in a shit year? Is it too edgy for this agency? Then again, how much do people care about awards these days? They have become a very devalued currency so I’d suggest that a D&AD silver today is not worth the same relative bump that it was ten or twenty years ago. There are now so many awards and the standard is so much lower than it was that a big award may not lead to a great increase or move. There are definitely people with more awards than me who are on less money, but that’s partly because they may not be promotable as CDs, either through inappropriateness or disinclination. Suitability to one job does not always indicate suitability to the other.
3. Get on well with your CD. OK, here’s a massive secret that I’m going to let you in on… come closer… turn the TV down… OK, ready? If your boss likes you, he or she is more likely to give you a raise (this applies to all jobs). That ‘liking’ may come from you doing good work, or it might come from you being mates since college whose kids go to the same school, or anything in between. Bosses give more money to those of whom they think well, and there are many ways for you to do that. Think about what they are (examples that are generally true include being enthusiastic, positive and not very racist) and give them a go (without being too transparent and crawly, otherwise you’ll have the opposite effect). Some people I worked with were certainly the ‘CD’s pets’ and it always stood them in good stead for decent briefs and raises.
4. Get another offer. This is a tricky game to play. You might genuinely be offered a job elsewhere, fret about whether to take it, explain the situation to your boss and get a raise. But you might equally pretend to get an offer and play a DEADLY GAME OF BLUFF with your boss to try to get a raise. Many’s the time I’ve heard of a team telling their boss that they feel they can’t turn down another offer (genuine or otherwise), only to be met with the response, ‘Oh, that’s a shame. Bye’. If you want to try this one out you should be prepared for it to fail. I once got a good raise by getting an offer that never became 100% official, but the agency felt they had to match it anyway. If they hadn’t matched it I’d almost certainly have stayed for no raise.
5. Be valuable to your boss in other ways. I can tell you from my own perspective as a raise-bestowing CD that I can be impressed by my department for many reasons aside from their creative output: providing leadership; showing initiative on improving the way the agency works; winning pitches (doesn’t happen at my place); cracking the tough briefs in a way that may not win awards but might make an awful account more attractive to work on; keeping an entire account running so smoothly that the CD barely has to pay any attention to it, and many other methods. Another team who were my contemporaries a while back did little outstanding work, but they kept a big client ticking over, were always positive and everyone liked working with them (they did win a few awards too, but nothing major), so they were on twice as much as me (I think they also leveraged an outside offer). In addition, our boss was always telling us to emulate them, so it was clear that whatever they were doing was working.
6. Then there’s the random stuff: I know my blog and novel have contributed to the positive way I’ve been perceived. They speak of attributes that come not directly from advertising, yet can be applied to the industry. If someone writes an industry blog almost every weekday for eight years, or writes a published novel then they obviously have a decent work rate. You can also see how good their writing is and whether or not you agree with their opinions. Thanks to the blog I’ve become better known in the industry, and with the value of awards plummeting, that is as good a benefit as any.
Aside from having photographs of bosses in compromising positions with farmyard animals, the above methods are worth a try. At the end of the day I suppose you have to ask yourself how much you need to be paid to justify what you spend your day doing.
One former boss of mine once said that he paid everyone the least he could get away with to get us to stay and work for him. That seemed harsh at the time, but now it makes perfect sense. Why would you pay more? Then again, he also predicted that my then art director and I would end up on 70 grand with a couple of D&AD pencils to mark how we got there.
Wrong on both counts.