Industry’s top earners rocked by five-year pay freeze

marketersSenior marketing and advertising bosses are being forced to work harder for less, with top industry executives witnessing a near 10% drop in pay in real terms over the past five years.

That is one of the key findings of the 2020 Salary Guide, published by Aquent, the recruitment firm which specialises in advertising, creative, digital and marketing roles.

The report has been compiled from 2019 UK placements the company has made, supported by an analysis of UK advertising and marketing sector salaries from the past five years.

The guide points to a challenging half decade for the sector, with disruption hitting the industry in several forms from in-housing to the dramatic domination of digital advertising by the Google and Facebook duopoly.

It reveals that many senior roles have gone without a salary increase in the past five years, representing a pay drop of 9% in real terms. At senior levels, marketing directors (£95,000 on average) creative directors (£92,500), brand managers (£75,000), content strategists (£72,000) and account directors (£60,000) have not received a penny more since 2014.

Across the board pay freezes for content and copywriting over the past five years have resulted from the influx of writing talent from traditional media. Only junior content managers and copywriters (up 6% and 8% respectively to £27,500), senior copywriters (5%) and copy editors (10% to £55,000) have seen their wages increase over this period.

And demand for design talent has soared. Creative and design professionals have seen inflation busting rises over the past half-decade with graphic designers up 30%, art workers up 32% and motion graphic designers up 33%.

At midweight levels (between four and ten years’ experience) the most dramatic five year changes have seen the pay of UX architects, UX leads and front end developers go up 26%, 18% and 14% respectively.

In the past year, professionals in mid-level roles have felt a squeeze, however. On average mid-level ad roles increased by just 2%, below the UK inflation rate (2.48%), meaning real-term wages actually decreased.

Entry-level workers in UX and development are still the best paid, with starting roles averaging around £32,500, and UX designers earn the highest junior wage at £38,500. Employers are reporting that UX specialists are especially tricky to find and hotly fought over, leading to consistently high wages.

It remains a job seekers market, particularly at entry level roles, as companies compete for new recruits. Junior positions across the board have seen much bigger pay rises this year (6.95% average in the past year) compared to mid-level (2%) and senior (2.22%) roles. Low-level design roles have had the biggest average pay rise across the board at 11.5% year-on-year. Of these integrated designers have enjoyed a healthy 16.7% increase to £28,000.

While junior designers have seen the biggest percentage increase from 2019, entry-level workers in UX and development are still the best paid. An average role will pull in a salary of £35,250.

While junior entrants had a positive year in terms of pay, ad professionals in mid/senior-level roles have suffered. On average, pay for mid-level roles increased by just 2%, below the UK inflation rate (2.48%), meaning real-term wages actually decreased.

Aquent UK managing director Aliza Sweiry said: “2019 has been a positive year for people trying to break into the advertising and creative industries. Excellent junior pay rises point to employers keen to secure new talent and willing to put more resources into employee growth and development than in hiring more senior staff.

“However, with senior pay packets seeing no movement over the past five years, ad agencies and brands alike will need to take heed. Increased competition from management consultancies and a growing trend for senior execs to escape the rat race for freelance opportunities will necessitate improved offering in the year ahead.”

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