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On the money

While creative agencies are constantly looking to increase their offerings with a well-rounded approach, salaries still play a large role in an employee’s choice to join a workplace or their loyalty to one. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but according to Hays’ “GCC 2015 Salary & Employment Report,” 41 percent of respondents expect a pay increase of more than ten percent this year, while 38 percent of participants assume that their salary will increase between five and ten percent. The same report indicates that 44 percent of employers project a five-percent increase in their employees’ annual salaries and 21 percent are expecting salaries to remain static.

Communicate’s Salary Survey 2015 features average salaries among agencies and recruiters, alike. When considering the changes between the 2014 and 2015 reports from recruiting agencies, positions across advertising, digital media and PR industries in the region seem to be increasing, albeit, rather slowly. Regional talent recruiting agency HR Source’s director, Umran Mehmood, suggests that the lack of a noticeable hike in salaries this year is due to global agencies pressuring their local arms to be more stringent when it comes to hiring in order to cut costs. Clients are also slashing spend and trying to get more for less, so agencies are straining to find ways to save. Mehmood says, “You’ll be shocked at how agencies are looking at every dirham spent.” Additionally, aside from the global impact, salaries in the GCC region are also tied to the ups and downs in the oil markets, as well as regional turmoil, of which, there is rarely a shortage.

Many agencies in the creative industries are not reporting numbers for several positions of the previous years. On one hand, this could be an effect of simply not wanting to disclose the salaries attached to certain roles, or the fact that those roles didn’t exist earlier.

There are certain positions that stand out more than others – either because of an increase, or a seemingly steep decrease in average pay. In the advertising world, salaries for some basic positions – such as graphic designers, copywriters, account managers and art directors – appear to be relatively stagnant, if not decreasing. Other positions in the same field – like creative or managing director roles – seem to have gained steam, with hikes in salaries between ten and 15 percent. In the digital space, the majority of agency roles are showing an increase in salary, with a few exceptions that go back to basics – graphic designers, developers and analysts – while other positions like account managers and planners show increased pay.

On the bright side, when a vacancy opens up, agencies are in the habit of looking at internal staff members for a promotion opportunity to boost morale. However, Mehmood suggests that they don’t want to satisfy internal talent simply for the sake of it; skill set is still the main agenda. Retaining talent, even if it means educating and training them to assume the role, will always cost less than hiring an outsider.

There is a pay raise in store for some; a continued premium will be placed upon mobile and data analytics skills over the next year. In turn, salaries will increase because agencies are all fighting for the same talent in a limited pool. “In 2015, when it comes to hiring talent within digital, search marketing, social, mobile, data analytics and programmatic, agencies have been very aggressive,” Mehmood says. He suggests that the increased need for talent in these sectors is being led by clients who are looking for robust technical solutions.

The “GCC Compensation and Benefits Trends in 2015” by the HR Compensation and Benefits Forum and The HR Observer suggests that by placing emphasis on learning employees’ wants and needs, agencies will be more likely to retain their talent without an overemphasis on compensation. Although, most agency heads would agree that giving added incentives to their employees in order to increase retention works, very few would argue that salary has taken a backseat to the value placed on culture. Are regional agencies practising what they preach? Or is everyone pinching pennies and only doling out the bare minimum?

To see salary tables for agencies and recruiters, click here.

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