I was having a pint with a mate who’s an above-the-line
I work below the line. He doesn’t really understand DM and, frankly,
doesn’t want to. Fair enough.
In any case, during one of our discussions, the question of salaries
came up. I said middle-weight DM teams are in demand and that even crap
ones are getting around pounds 40K to pounds 45K (each).
He spluttered in disbelief. He, who has two pencils, barely makes that
kind of wonga. How could a below-the-line (he stressed each syllable,
for effect) without any such accolades command such a salary? I
explained that, with the exception of the top 1 per cent of ATL
creatives, below-the-line teams almost always get paid more. The reasons
are economics and the way each discipline evaluates performance.
The size of an ATL creative pay package is directly related to the
industry icons that adorn one’s window sill. The more awards that
collect dust, the more money you make. Then there’s the law of supply
and demand. The number of talented folk who want to work ATL is huge.
The number of jobs is low. High supply + low demand = low price.
A BTL pay package is more related to book, results of work, experience
and awards. The economics: fewer people want to work in BTL, so the
total number of really good people is lower. DM is a growth-oriented
business, so demand for excellent creatives is very high. High demand +
low supply = high price.
My friend went quiet for a moment in contemplation. The economics seemed
to confuse him. Regardless, he would not relent. Indeed, he ranted how
DM is not really advertising, delivering venomous statements like: ’When
was the last time anyone was impressed by a letter you wrote?’
That rapier-like quip cut me to the quick, I can assure you. But then,
thinking on one’s feet and issuing insightful retorts are probably why
he gets paid the big ATL money, while I just languish away on my meagre