I was having a pint with a mate who’s an above-the-line copywriter.

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

DM salary.