The 2008 salary survey of Australian advertising agencies has confirmed the recent fierce competition for skilled staff and the turnover of staff in the industry.

This year’s Advertising Federation of Australia (AFA) survey includes salary data from 94 marketing communications agencies across the country, including Full Service, specialist Healthcare and specialist Digital agencies. The data covers a total of 3477 employees across 94 positions and the period from July 2007 through June 2008.

“The advertising industry has always been a highly competitive one with attractive salaries being paid to retain the best talent, irrespective of the cycle of the economy. We expect that trend to continue, despite the recent tightening of the economic environment, said AFA national board member, and regional CFO of Saatchi &Saatchi Mike Satterthwaite.

“The AFA Salary Survey is an invaluable tool for agency management to benchmark their business against industry trends, and is similarly useful in setting appropriate remuneration levels for staff,” he said.

Those positions that require specialist skills in disciplines such as digital production, creative and account management were the roles attracting the biggest salary increases – over 15%. But 30% of agency positions had salary increases that were below 2007 increases. However, more staff received bonuses.

While the overall agency population has remained static, movement within that population continues, with both the numbers of resignations and redundancies at the peak levels experienced since 2006.

That staff turnover is sitting on 30% of head count – unchanged from its high water mark of 2006 and well up on 2004 (19%) levels.

The data shows:

  • In 79% of the positions surveyed, the number of years in that role is short – two years or less. Most movement is in Account Management and Digital.
  • In 55% of the positions surveyed, the average number of years with the agency is two years or less before they move on – again predominately in mid level Account Management and most Digital roles.
  • Only 4 of the 94 positions surveyed have served five years or more – mostly in senior management and finance.

The number of companies hiring freelance staff has again increased – up from 40% in 2007 to 54% in 2008. These are predominately for digital production and creative roles, although there are increasing numbers of freelance account management and planning roles.

As the skills shortage continued, more agencies preferred to recruit within their own networks. Intra-agency group transfers grew again in 2008 – up 47% on 2007.

The 12-year upward trend of women in top management has been reversed – back down to 16% after peaking at 28% in 2006, from only 7% in 1994. But for the first time, the traditionally male dominated role of Group Account Director is now occupied by slightly more women – 52%.

The 2008 AFA Salary Survey also reveals:

  • A big demand for digital and account management specialists
  • Agencies looking more to their own networks to fill positions
  • Staff turnover steady but high
  • Agency population is static
  • More agencies are turning to freelancers
  • A decline in the number of women in top management
  • But for the first time more Group Account Directors are women

The online survey was conducted by Research International and was reviewed by accounting firm, HLB.