ADLAND'S LABOUR POLICY

Despite recession and cuts in ad spend, agencies are still paying close attention to staff benefits. Campaign sorts through the perks and the pitfalls.

When times are tight and the recession is as entrenched as this one, everyone suffers. But when recession hits the ad industry harder than other business sectors, attracting and retaining the best staff can become a real challenge.

The wave of redundancies that almost every agency has suffered means the remaining workforce is often putting in more hours than usual. The battle to win and retain business takes on a new urgency that raises stress levels as well as man hours. And the sheen is scraped off the social perks that have traditionally made advertising one of the more fun industries in which to earn a crust.

But perhaps most trying of all is that the advertising recession has meant a freeze on pay increases, or only modest pay rises, for staff who have grown up in the boom times of double-digit annual salary boosts.

And the days of the mortgage-relieving bonuses are, for the moment at least, over for most agencies.

But advertising is still an industry that pays great attention to the packages it offers its best people. From health insurance to investment in training and free breakfasts, agencies have not forgotten the need to nurture their talent. But how do they compare on the packages and extras that come into their own when the salary bill is squeezed? Campaign sampled the industry's top creative agencies to find out what was on offer.

PAY

The nation's top agencies were sheepish when it came to revealing their pay policies. Only Leo Burnett was brave enough to give figures - the starting salary for staff who join the agency after October 2004 will be £20,000, plus £3,000 towards student loan repayments. Similarly, Grey London pays graduates a £1,000 net bonus in the first month to help with the additional costs when starting a new job, such as moving house.

On the other end of the clarity spectrum, M&C Saatchi revealed only that its pay was "negotiable". The other 18 agencies all believed that their pay levels were either equal or above the national averages established in salary surveys.

Most of the agencies offer "discretionary bonus schemes". Some are based on the performance of the company; others on individual achievement. Those offered by BMP DDB, WCRS and Ogilvy & Mather take both factors into account.

Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R offers group shares after two years of service, while Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO operates an account handler of the month scheme, a long service award and the Rob Hughes award, which gives a staff member who has made an outstanding contribution to the company £5,000.

HOLIDAYS

WPP seems to be the most generous with paid holiday. Both HHCL/Red Cell and J. Walter Thompson offer new employees 25 days, while at JWT, that rises to a maximum of 35 days.

Publicis also offers a starting rate of 25 days, while Bartle Bogle Hegarty and O&M offer 23 and 22 days respectively.

New staff at Saatchi & Saatchi are allowed 25 days' holiday, but that includes the Christmas break.

Bank Hoggins O'Shea/FCB usually offers newcomers the standard four weeks' holiday. But its generosity got the better of it in 2003. This year, staff get an extra five days.

Grey gives staff a half-day off before each UK Bank Holiday. TBWA\London offers a similar scheme, plus two "duvet days" per year. Partners BDDH offers three half-days off in summer, which can be taken at short notice.

And in tribute to its continental heritage, Publicis operates a French Fridays scheme, in which staff are awarded an occasional Friday off to put them in line with their public holiday-rich neighbours on the continent.

Both O&M and Wieden & Kennedy allow staff moving house a day off. W&K also allows birthdays as holidays.

PENSIONS

The IPA launched advertising's first industry-wide pension scheme in 1987, with the intention of providing sufficient flexibility to cope with the tendency of people to change their jobs frequently.

Today, however, the scheme still has only about 1,000 members, representing just 7 per cent of the workforce in IPA member agencies.

The fund's administrators say a higher membership would enable them to drive down costs but that this is difficult while major groups such as WPP prefer to stay outside the scheme.

All this helps explain the huge differences in pension provision among major agencies. At one end of the scale is WCRS, where agency contributions range from 3 to 10 per cent of salary.

At the other is Lowe & Partners, which offers neither a company nor personal pension plan. It does provide personal medical insurance for employees and their families, though.

Between these two extremes are offerings of varying attractiveness. JWT operates a stakeholder scheme but makes no contribution for staff below board level; TBWA pays 1.5 per cent into the IPA scheme as long as its contribution is matched by the employee; Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners operates a so-called "salary sacrifice scheme" under which staffers benefit from the agency's National Insurance savings.

More normal are schemes such as that operated by M&C Saatchi, under which the agency makes a 6 per cent contribution of an employee's annual salary to a group personal pension plan subject to a 4 per cent contribution by the employee.

Others have broadly similar offerings. McCann-Erickson will match employee contributions up to 6 per cent; AMV will put in between 6 and 10 per cent, depending on length of service; O&M will contribute 1.5 per cent of base salary with no obligation on the employee to match it; BMP and BBH have upper contribution limits of 12.5 and 10 per cent respectively.

MATERNITY/PATERNITY LEAVE

The statutory maternity leave is six weeks at 90 per cent pay, followed by 20 weeks at £100 per week. If a woman has more than 26 weeks' continuous service, she is entitled to a further 26 weeks leave without any pay. The standard paternity package is two weeks at £100 per week.

However, AMV, DLKW, Grey, HHCL/Red Cell, JWT, Publicis and WCRS all specify that new fathers receive two weeks leave at full pay. Other maternity packages vary greatly. Among the best on offer is JWT's, where new mothers are given six months off at full salary.

Publicis and Saatchis aren't alone in offering maternity leave according to the length of service. WCRS offers full pay over six months after two years' service, on the condition that the employee returns to work within one year. W&K also offers full pay for 26 weeks after two years' employment.

As an added bonus, AMV babies receive £100 while Grey newborns are provided with Marks & Spencer vouchers to the same value. New Lowe parents are sent Baby Gap vouchers.

COMPANY CARS

Company cars are definitely a thing of the past. Due to the change in income tax laws, many ad agencies do not offer vehicles, and according to DLKW: "Nobody wants them anymore." But some agencies continue to provide enhanced salary packages to compensate.

Lowe, for instance, which has historically encouraged a Vauxhall/Saab company car policy, now offers allowances in lieu of company cars ranging from £4,000 to £10,500 per year.

While O&M hasn't maintained its ties with Ford, Publicis is the only agency in the top 20 to specify the make driven by its employees - Renault.

At the few agencies that still have company cars, more often than not it depends on an employee's seniority.

At WCRS, for example, only employees at account director level or above are entitled to a vehicle or cash in lieu allowance. This ranges from an £18,500 car or £6,200 cash at senior staff level up to £27,000 or £8,300 cash for a director.

HEALTH

There is a baseline standard package that most agencies adhere to for all employees and their families which includes private medical care, permanent health insurance and life assurance.

W&K and HHCL/Red Cell also provide dental care, while AMV, BBH, Publicis and Lowe offer access to a company doctor. Some agencies only offer health benefits after at least a year's service.

M&C Saatchi offers private healthcare after two years and PHI after one year. Partners BDDH offers BUPA cover only after a year and O&M won't cover spouses and families for the first two years.

But it is the extras that can make a difference. AMV has a massage chair and subsidised access to an alternative therapist. Saatchis also offers a chiropodist. BBH staff can enjoy the benefits of a health and beauty therapist every Wednesday, and DLKW offers subsidised shiatsu. HHCL/Red Cell also contributes 50 per cent towards the cost of treatment for those staff members trying to give up smoking.

GYM MEMBERSHIP

A physically fit staff is advantageous to any company and this is reflected in the gym packages that most agencies have organised for their staff.

Almost all respondents have set up subsidised memberships for all staff at local gyms (money off the joining fee as well as the monthly fee).

Many gyms will often offer this to companies free of charge in anticipation of enhanced demand for membership.

Banks Hoggins O'Shea/FCB offers gym membership for board members only, however, while Saatchis has a small gym on site for staff members.

BARS

In-house bars are where agency staff bitch and bond. Almost all the top 20 shops have them; those that don't, organise social activities. One of Garry Lace's first moves when he arrived as the chief executive at Grey was to approve the building of a large cafe and bar area to boost flagging morale.

Saatchis' agency bar is named after one of its most famous ads, The Pregnant Man. Both Saatchis and AMV help build team spirit by giving staff free bar vouchers to spend on their birthdays. BBH is among those companies offering free breakfasts to early starters.

Some agencies use their bars as a focal point for events that will bring staff together. BMP has themed evenings; Lowe's bar plays host to entertainers such as magicians, while Burnett's regularly arranges "happy hours".

At Publicis, the bar is a regular venue for gigs by the agency's house band and fund raisers for the agency's nominated charity, the Depaul Trust.

WCRS simply likes its bar to be the place where a good time is had by all. "It's relaxed, fun, informal, wild and very difficult to leave," was the verdict of a recent Campaign review.

Meanwhile, McCann likes staff to remember who pays the wages. Complimentary breakfasts are supplied courtesy of Cereal Partners and refreshments are offered throughout the day at the Nescafe Cafe. And the Bacardi flows at the Friday evening free bar.

HHCL/Red Cell compensates for the fact that it does not have a bar with monthly "work and pub" evenings when everybody comes together to catch up on news before retiring to the pub. Drinks on the house, of course.

TRAINING

According to the IPA, the average spend per ad agency on training was £60,000 in 2002. The standard level of training offered to employees by agencies involves accreditation to the IPA's Continuous Professional Development programme. The CPD programme stipulates that all client-facing staff should receive a minimum of 16 hours of training per year AMV and BMP have worldwide training initiatives, called BBDO University and DDB University respectively.

There are also some interesting opportunities for training in other areas with some agencies. BMP offers opportunities as varied as courses on poetry.

HHCL/Red Cell's "dreamcatcher" pilot takes the best four ideas each year from staff wanting to fulfil a major life dream and gives financial assistance and paid leave to help achieve it.

O&M offers mentoring and a summer school while Partners BDDH has an education budget that pays half the cost (up to £200) for staff to do any course - from dancing to painting.

Publicis has weekly "power hours" with tutors to offer intense learning periods. And Saatchis has "brain food" courses for alternative experiences such as car-racing days for Toyota and Lexus account staff. It also offers stock market courses to promote personal finance management among its employees.

INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS

Good internal communications are pretty much the norm among London's advertising agencies. Most adopt an informal approach, using e-mail and the intranet to keep staff up to date.

Some enhance communications with regular all-staff meetings. Burnett, for example, has weekly all staff get-togethers, while M&C Saatchi holds them every month. Others hold regular board meetings, where senior staff discuss issues and show each other work in progress.

WCRS and W&K have six-monthly meetings exposing all staff to the agency's business plan, keeping them informed of what the companies' goals are and whether or not they are being met.

Socialising naturally forms an important part of most agencies' internal communications structure. This can often take the form of celebrations in agency bars following account wins or the ubiquitous staff day out.

Saatchis has a buddy system which pairs a senior member of staff with a junior to provide mentorship, while Partners BDDH attempts to involve staff at every level with a system under which each week, a member of the management hosts a lunch for six randomly chosen agency staff. The guests are encouraged to ask questions and, in general, feel able to have a more friendly relationship with their managers.

All such benefits aim to keep staff motivated and loyal, recession or not.

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