NEWS ANALYSIS: Agencies respond to claims of inadequate staff benefits - Agencies up their game but cannot compete with media owners, writes Jonah Bloom

Mention of the word ’pension’ used to have the same impact as a dose of morphine but, with a real shortage of candidates in the media world, such benefits are fast becoming a hot topic for both employers and employees.

Mention of the word ’pension’ used to have the same impact as a

dose of morphine but, with a real shortage of candidates in the media

world, such benefits are fast becoming a hot topic for both employers

and employees.



Last week, a new survey from recruitment consultancy The Davis Company

showed media agencies do not offer many of the benefits considered

standard among the bigger media owners, prompting questions about

whether they are doing enough for their highly valuable staff.



’Only one top agency offers you a pension the day you walk through the

door,’ says Louise Foers, agency consultant at The Davis Company. ’Most

companies have either a minimum age requirement, or they only allow

staff to start the scheme at a particular point in the year.’



She also stresses that bonuses, so plentiful among media owners, are in

short supply at the agencies.



But as CIA Medianetwork vice- chairman Richard Burdett says: ’Agencies

are becoming more benefit conscious.’ And Burdett has a long list of

impressive benefits offered to CIA staffers (although automatic pensions

are still under debate) to support his argument.



MediaCom managing director Nick Lawson agrees. ’Everyone has upped their

game in the last year. We now compete to some extent with dotcoms and

with sales roles. I am surprised to hear there aren’t many bonus

schemes. We offer a bonus linked to profit, and I’m sure others do

too.’



MediaVest chief executive Jim Marshall certainly does: ’We have a bonus

scheme based on profitability, it is open and democratic.’ And so does

Zenith, according to chief executive Graham Duff: ’We’re probably the

only agency to have paid out a bonus every year of our existence,’ he

says.



But as Marshall explains, it is difficult to make a straight comparison

between the whopping commission earned at some of the bigger media

owners and the bonus payments made to agency staff. ’It’s a case of what

we can earn compared with media owners. We offer some good benefits but

we can’t compete with the owners on bonuses. My feeling is people make a

decision based on what sort of job they want to do.’



And there’s the rub. Mark Waugh, managing partner at Optimedia, takes up

Marshall’s theme. ’You shouldn’t be looking solely at remuneration in

the early years of your career. We try to pay well and have the right

benefits but we also focus on having top training.’



Pensions are available at most of the top ten agencies although, as Duff

explains, they are not normally automatic. ’Our attitude is that you

give people the best possible package, and they can then decide whether

they want a pension to be part of that. Our average staffer is 27, so

pensions may not always be their priority. The most important thing is

that people have a choice.’



Increasingly, it seems choices are being made available but the

bottom-line remains that agency chiefs want staff to join for the

opportunities and breadth of experience on offer- not for private

healthcare and a good pension.



Topics