The state of pay: What’s going on with performance marketing salaries?

Pay is up there on both candidate and recruiter agendas. PMW reveals the experiences in the industry, alongside the average salaries you can expect across a variety of roles.

As part of PMW’s Performance Marketing Workforce series, we look at salary changes across major roles in performance marketing, alongside the experiences of key experts within the sector.

It’s no secret that the industry is feeling a skills and talent gap, but what has this done to pay?

Quite simply, with demand comes…demand. And this year, there has definitely been a trend of salary inflation. We look at the experiences at some of the industry’s leading organisations, and the latest findings from recruitment specialists Major Player’s 2022 salary survey, to pinpoint the roles that are driving pay up.

Salary bands: keeping up with the market

Martin Kelly, CEO UK and APAC at Kepler, highlights salary bands for many of the teams in the organisation post-pandemic having to be reassessed, resulting in a period of salary inflation over the past two years.

“We operate salary bands, and within that, if you are, say, an account manager, you sit within that band and then if you're promoted, you move to the next band. But we've had to say those bands were out of date because they didn’t reflect what people are getting paid in the market

“When people were leaving we were seeing that they were leaving for significantly higher salaries. So we rebanded everyone and lots of people got arbitrary pay rises as a part of that.”

Alongside that, Matt Dailey, Chief Performance Officer at Havas Media Group, highlights that competition is always rife when it comes to pay, making it that much harder – but more important – to beef up communication on what you can offer potential new recruits.

“It's so much harder to find people you are looking for because you are always going to be limited by salary. There's always going to be someone out there who will give the extra five grand. So you do have to pull as many levers as possible outside of that, to try and get people to favour you over the other 20 agencies that are all recruiting for exactly the same position.”

Salaries: the numbers

Ed Davidson, Associate Director, Digital Marketing and e-commerce at recruitment specialist Major Players is clear that salary inflation has basically been rife across the industry at an accelerated rate.

“Generally we’ve definitely seen an increase in what candidates are commanding from the salary perspective this year. We've seen that on average for permanent roles, there's been an over 10% increase and for freelancers, a rise of around 7% in day rates. It's driven by the shortage of talent and the demand in the industry.”

Major Players’ 2022 Salary Survey, published earlier this year, took responses from more than 8,000 professionals. Its year-on-year comparisons between 2022 and 2021 found double-digit increases across a significant number of performance marketing roles.

At an average salary this year of £35,000, a CRM Executive could expect to be paid 17% more than a year ago, while their Account Directors have seen their pay go up by an average 20%. Meanwhile, both Heads of Growth Marketing and Digital Outreach Specialists have seen pay jump by almost a third – being able to command £80,000 and £45,000 respectively.

Despite recording more demand for roles in the paid social arena, Major Players actually saw a slight dip in average salaries year on year. A Paid Social or PPC Executive commands, on average 2% less than in 2021, while their manager counterparts saw average salaries drop by 11%.

Meanwhile, SEO Executives saw an average pay of £28,000 this year, stable compared to a year ago, despite their managers commanding 22% more than they did in 2021. And Performance Marketing Managers were another role seeing no change in average salary year-on-year, at £50,000.

Ensuring you don’t price yourself – and your existing team – out

But what happens when you’re confronted with a team member who threatens to leave for a role paying much more?

People jumping for pay rises of up to 50%, occasionally more, may have been a rarity a few years ago, but now it’s far from unheard of. Offering to match such a high increase can of course mean salary inflation and if you’re not careful, or prepared to inflate everybody, will create pay disparity among your teams.

Anne Stagg, UK CEO of Merkle is clear on the agency’s approach in that situation.

“There are some skills in the marketplace where we just were seeing crazy levels of activity and pay rises. In those cases I have no choice, but to pat them on the back and wish them well. We’ve had a few situations where we had to consciously decide not to try and ‘save’ those individuals because it just wouldn't be right for our business.”

Davidson agrees: “There are hiring managers who would feel that in the past 12 months they may have gone above and beyond perhaps what they should have done for talent. I've definitely noticed in the most recent months that companies are looking to stick to their guns a bit around salary brackets and bandings.”

And Rakhee Jogia, Managing Director International at Rakuten Advertising, points out that while pay isn’t everything, and saving talent for the sake of pay disparity will only create gaps, a firm sense of benchmarking is helping to get people at market levels.

“We're trying to do so much to keep up to the market, but when you get a person saying ‘[a big tech firm’s] offering me a hundred percent more’, it’s mental. I can't match that number. And we just have to bid that person good luck and farewell and there may be an opportunity later to come back if it doesn’t work out.

“I feel like we're in a good place now, because we've got a lot of the existing talent to a level they need to be, and new talent is walking in at a level where we’re able to pay fairly based on the industry benchmark. Then as we move people through their current careers, we're able to adjust those up as well.”