Has the bubble burst?

Last year there was an air of optimism among UK marketers, as their future prospects and those of the industry looked good. The Marketing Week/Ball & Hoolahan 2002 Salary Survey demonstrates the fact that this year things are a lot less certai

Was it too good to be true? That was the question many were asking as a result of a remarkably buoyant job market in 2000. As things turned out, scepticism proved to be the correct tone, with world events last year taking a turn for the worse. September 11 is widely described as the day the world changed – the same could be said of its impact on the marketing industry.

While the recruitment market was slower than usual at the beginning of 2001 – possibly due to uncertainty over the US economy – things began to pick up from about March onwards and looked set fair.

Following the terrorist attacks in the US, there has been a collapse in various sectors connected with the airline industry, such as hoteling, entertainment and leisure. Most recruitment-related projects have been put on hold and redundancies are a burning issue.

Marketing agencies dependent on tourism have had to lay people off and, suddenly, fears surrounding job security have become much more prevalent compared with last year – it’s one of the facts highlighted by the Marketing Week/Ball & Hoolahan 2002 Salary Survey.

Traditionally, “challenging work”, “financial reward” and a “friendly working environment” are the three crucial job criteria for marketers. While this still holds true, this year respondents cited “job security” as being far more important than they did in last year’s survey.

Now, marketers are generally more eager to hold onto their jobs, with only 53 per cent of those surveyed expecting to move by the end of 2002 – five per cent down on last year’s figure. Clearly much of the optimism of 2000 and early last year has subsided; with the recessionary climate resonating from the US, companies are seemingly much more reluctant to recruit.

Role reversal

It was an employee’s market in 2000. Now there are hundreds of people out of work and, in contrast to a year ago, employers are the ones calling the shots. There has been a general tightening of purse strings, demonstrated by the fact the average salary increase across the industry was only 7.7 per cent during the past 12 months, a percentage point down on the previous year.

Companies cutting back on expenditure have affected other sectors such as public relations and advertising. From around July onwards this reduced spend was reflected in the recruitment pages of the trade press, which shrank significantly compared with earlier in the year.

The irony is, according to the survey, there are still lots of job opportunities out there for those with the right credentials yet, just like a year ago, there is a severe shortage of people with the specialist marketing skills and experience required to fill these positions.

The specialists in least supply are good brand marketers trained in the packaged goods sector, and companies are looking for specific skills in areas such as brand building, research and customer relationship management (CRM). This is borne out in the survey, with the top ten per cent of packaged-goods marketers commanding a salary of 77,500 – more than 12 per cent higher than any other traditional industry sector. Overall, only “telecoms” and “professional services” paid more in 2001.

Another feature of last year was the continuing exodus of candidates from the dwindling Internet sector. Boom became bust in the dot-com world, leaving many people out of work – with those lacking marketing experience finding it very hard to find new jobs.

Cutting back all round

As companies cut budgets and look to streamline operations, an increase in restructuring might be expected. But, somewhat surprisingly, restructuring was nearly ten per cent down overall compared with the previous year. Interestingly, however, 32 per cent of respondents saw a reduction in the number of marketing staff – contrary to the previous trend of marketing departments increasing in size. So, those departments that have restructured appear to have downsized, again another sign of faltering business conditions.

With employers seemingly in a position of strength, there might be less need to offer attractive packages. But the concerted effort in 2000 made by blue-chip businesses to offer employees improved bonuses in order to retain staff appears to have continued, with 93 per cent of marketers receiving additional benefits on top of their basic salary.

The trend of offering a car allowance rather than a company car as part of the package has also continued. This is not a new phenomenon, as companies provide a car allowance in lieu of a company car to save on tax costs.

The additional benefits of performance-related bonuses, contributory pensions and share-option schemes were all higher than ever before, hammering home the message that it’s not just about a basic salary – the total package is a very important consideration.

In 2000, there was a growing trend towards flexible working practices and this continued last year – about half of all marketing departments embraced “flexitime”. Employers being accommodating is a symptom of a strong employee market and, while the shoe’s now on the other foot, companies appear happy to give permanent staff the same free rein as before, with home-working by far the most popular option – on the rise for the third successive year.

The old maxim that it’s easier to keep existing staff than find new recruits still holds true. Staff retention appears to be a key human resources strategy. An example of this is Unilever’s maternity policy, which makes it very attractive for women to return to work.

Contract casualties

The contract market, meanwhile, has been one of the biggest casualties of economic uncertainty. Ultimately, contractors are more expensive than permanent staff, so when the going gets tough they’re the first people that companies let go. As a result, the market was more subdued in the second half of 2001 and was not nearly as buoyant as previous years.

It would seem that companies are less willing to employ marketers from overseas on a three-month contract due to legislative changes, with the Government keen to ensure that contractors receive the same benefits as full-time staff. This is perhaps because legislative complexity is making the contract sector less interesting for employers. As a result a quick fix on a contract basis is not an option any more.

As for home-grown talent, London remains very much the heart of UK marketing and commands a premium compared with other regions. The top ten per cent of London workers earned an average of 76,549, which is 12 per cent more than any other region, bar the apparent statistical anomaly of Tyne Tees.


Another continuing trend is female employees being discriminated against within the industry. A typical male marketing director earns nearly nine per cent more than his female counterpart, rising to 13 per cent at marketing manager level. Among the top ten per cent of marketers, men earn a staggering 25 per cent more than women.

The one consolation for those working in UK-owned companies is that the salaries paid to their US counterparts no longer appear to be superior. While US-owned companies paid nearly eight per cent more among the top ten per cent of marketers in 2000, salaries were on a virtual par last year. This may, however, be a symptom of the ailing American economy, with US-owned companies simply paying less than a year ago, and UK workers being no better off.

Overall, the market has reduced and consolidated substantially over the past 12 months. Opportunities in marketing are generally fewer compared with this time last year. Restructuring continues and sectors including telecoms and technology are making big cuts because, much like the dot-com sector, market expectations are simply not that good any more.

Difficult times ahead

It remains a difficult time for marketing and the past 12 months have highlighted how quickly fortunes can change: the industry moving from being incredibly buoyant to very uncertain (and slow to invest), resulting in companies taking on fewer people, and those in work being less willing to move. Retention of good marketers has now become key.

In contrast to this, the talent shortage of 2000 still hasn’t been resolved. Employers say they are only willing to consider people with the right skills. This means there’s a mismatch between huge numbers of marketers out of work, a lot of jobs out there for those with the right skills, but apparently very few being qualified enough to do the jobs.

Fundamentally, there’s nothing wrong with the UK economy, but the consensus is that the job market will not begin to resolve itself until March at the earliest. The US recession and continuing unrest in the Middle East and Asia mean that uncertainty will continue for some time.

In the first part of this year employers will be able to dictate when they recruit, and marketers at a junior level will continue to have a frustrating time (unless they have the right skills) as entry opportunities are few and far between with no new, emerging growth sectors. Sadly, this means many people in the early stage of their careers may reconsider whether they should be in marketing.

The clear message is that these are both challenging and uncertain times for the marketing industry, as with UK industry as a whole. Business has become partially paralysed by world events and it will be a good while yet before things are truly back to normal.

Hilary Hoolahan is joint managing director of Ball & Hoolahan

Key points

  • The average increase in salary was 7.7 per cent across the industry during the past 12 months – one per cent down on the previous year’s figure, perhaps highlighting the fact employers have tightened purse strings
  • Expectations for 2002 and beyond are more conservative compared with a year ago – 48 per cent expect less than a five per cent increase in salary. This may reflect a changing mood among marketers who acknowledge the stuttering economy
  • 52 per cent of respondents said that economic and political uncertainty now affected career decisions, also highlighting marketers’ unease
  • The average marketing director earned 63,344 and marketing manager 37,872, but like last year, the top ten per cent at these levels earned considerably more – 97,083 and 62,166 respectively
  • At a senior level, sexism still appears to be rife – among the top ten per cent of marketers, men earn a staggering 25 per cent more than women. A typical male marketing director earns nearly nine per cent more than his female equivalent. This rises to 13 per cent at marketing manager level
  • 53 per cent of those surveyed believe they will move jobs by the end of 2002, five per cent down on last year’s figure. This may reflect job insecurity, with employees generally more eager to hold onto their jobs
  • The top ten per cent of those with at least five years’ marketing experience continue to be able to earn 50,000-plus, rising to 80,000-plus for those with ten years’ experience
  • ‘Challenging work’, ‘financial reward’ and a ‘friendly working environment’ remain key requirements in job criteria, but ‘job security’ was cited as being more important compared with last year’s survey
  • 59 per cent of marketing departments restructured, nearly ten per cent down on last year. However, more people than ever before saw a reduction in staff and fewer people saw an increase, so departments appear to be increasingly downsizing
  • The top ten per cent of packaged-goods marketers commanded a salary of 77,500 – more than 12 per cent higher than any other traditional industry sector, perhaps highlighting the fact they have been in shortest supply
  • The sectors seen by marketers as most appealing are, as they were last year, ‘marketing consultancy’ and ‘travel and leisure’. However, ‘new media and the Internet’ is far less attractive compared with a year ago, showing how this sector’s fortunes have slumped
  • Working in the capital still offers a premium for marketers, the top ten per cent of London workers earning an average of 76,549, which is 12 per cent more than any other region, bar the apparent statistical anomaly of Tyne Tees
  • Flexible working practices occur within nearly half of all marketing departments, home-working being more popular than ever with almost 80 per cent of the sample working in companies where home working is now acceptable
  • The biggest pay rises in the past 12 months went to group product managers (10.7 per cent), followed by senior product/brand managers and marketing directors (both 7.9 per cent)
  • The annual salary survey, of which this is the 19th, has always been acknowledged as an authoritative and unique guide to pay and benefit, conditions and expectations in the marketing industry. As well as acting as a benchmark to marketers of their earning power, it is a valuable tool for employers who wish to recruit and retain marketing professionals.

    Research was carried out by Compass Research. The questionnaire was mailed out in October 2001 to 13,000 Marketing Week readers. A deadline for responses was set at November 16 2001.

    The final response rate was 12 per cent, yielding 1,545 responses. The sample was split 45/54 men and women.

    One per cent of respondents held the most senior positions of chairman/managing director/ general manager, while eight per cent were marketing directors. Marketing managers made up the main job function covered (39 per cent), indicating the breadth of roles that this title covers.

    The next largest groups were product/ brand manager at ten per cent of the sample, senior product manager (five per cent), assistant product manager (one per cent), group product manager (one per cent) and graduate trainee/marketing assistant (one per cent), trade/retail marketing manager (three per cent) and category manager (two per cent). Other titles such as direct marketing and research managers are grouped under a general marketing services manager title, which account for 12 per cent of the sample; assistants are graded under the title of marketing services executive.

    Thirty-two per cent of the sample were aged between 27 and 30 years, while 26 per cent were between 31 and 35. Sixteen per cent were between 36 and 40 and nine per cent were 26 and under.

    In the main version of the survey, there is a full set of charts including numerous cross-tabulations and covering areas such as using the Internet. Specially tailored analyses are available on request from Hugh Pinnock at Compass Research (01722 333 531) or via email: hugh.pinnock@virgin.net. See the order form below for a copy of the Marketing Week/Ball & Hoolahan Marketing Survey 2002.


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