Digital talent – why it’s tough to find good people

14/03/2014

Competition for talent at digital agencies and production companies is leading to sharp salary rises, and remuneration gaps of up to 45% between some regions, according to a new report.

The study, from entrepreneur network SoDA, indicates that globally, there’s never been a better time to be in the three most sought-after digital roles: account director, creative director, and technical architect.

Senior-level strategists and user-experience leads also command strong salaries, although these vary according to where they live.

These are key findings the annual Salary Report by SoDA, the invitation-only organisation that represents top digital agencies and elite production companies worldwide.

The number of account directors earning more than $125k (£75k) increased by 45% between 2012 and 2013; while creative directors commanded up to 41% higher salaries in North America compared with their European peers.

Last year the average salary for technical architects in North America was between $101-$110k(£60-65k) compared with $91-$100k (£54-59k) in Europe and Australia. The result suggests uniform global demand for this area of expertise, particularly in light of the sometimes significant salary gaps between these regions for other roles.

The SoDA Salary Report underscores a significant – and in some cases widening – salary divide between regions such as Europe and North America. In Europe, average salaries for project managers, creative directors, producers, graphic designers and copywriters stagnated last year as the cost of living rose.

While salaries for some of these positions in North America were also stagnant, they were, on average, 42% higher than salaries in Europe. This fact could lead to some top talent exploring expat opportunities.

The SoDA Salary Report also reveals:

• Account directors earned 11% more on average last year compared with 2012.

• Creative directors’ salaries rose by 8%, the most common salary range in 2013 was between $126-$150k (£75-90k).

• Unlike some corporate sectors where CEO pay has risen significantly, compensation for CEOs and managing partners in the study actually dipped 16% in 2013, from $200-250k (£120-150k) on average in 2012, to $176-200k (£105-120k)in 2013. This decline can partly be explained by a shift towards incentive-based pay (not captured in the study’s baseline salary figures).

• SoDA’s findings also suggest that top executives are shouldering some of the burden associated with tough economic times, in order to maintain or increase the salaries of key talent.

North/South America highlights

• Overall, the highest salaries are paid in North America, with some roles such as account managers ($91-$100k or £54-59k) and social media directors ($101-110k or £60-65k) standing out. This contrasts with Europe and Australia where account managers earned between $61-$70k(£36-41k) and $51-$60k(£30-35k) in Latin America.

• Salaries for top digital talent in Brazil remain above the rest of Latin America for many positions such as executive creative director, senior graphic designer, copywriter and front-end developer. But the gap is beginning to narrow given the economic strength of other markets in the region, such as Colombia.

• Last year a senior Latin American producer could command between $41-$50k(£24-29k) compared with $71-$80k(£42-48k)in the UK and $101-$110k(£60-65k) in New York.

Europe highlights

• Creative directors earned $126-$150k(£75-90k) in North America compared with $91-$100k(£54-59k) in Europe, $61-$70k(£36-41k) in Latin America and $111-$125k(£66-74k) in Australia.

• While salaries for most key positions in Europe stagnated in 2013, the role of technical architect bucked that trend, rising more than 100% last year.

APAC highlights

• The Australian bull run of salaries in 2012 abated in 2013, with pay for producers, creative directors, graphic designers and copywriters declining last year.

• Median pay for Australian executive creative directors fell from between $176-$200k(£105-120k) to $126-$150k (£75-90k)– the same as Europe. This reflects tightening margins on the continent, increased competition, with clients cautious over the direction of the economy keeping control of budgets.

Chris Buettner, SoDA’s executive director, says: “On a global level, most salaries analysed by SoDA were either stable or slightly up on 2013, despite the slow economic recovery in many regions. One of the reasons is that the world’s leading digital agencies and production companies are fighting hard to keep top talent from jumping ship to start-ups that offer high salaries and promise a golden lottery ticket.

“SoDA’s international growth over the past year has allowed us to segment the response data in more ways than ever before. In this year’s Salary Survey we are seeing pockets of salary inflation due to global demand for top talent in areas such as design, user experience, strategy and technical architecture.”

Methodology:

83% of SoDA members responded to the 2013 Salary Survey up 9% on 2012.

Globally SoDA represents approximately 80 companies with 200+ offices in 26 countries across six continents.

www.sodaspeaks.com

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