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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Should Advertising Executives Be Entitled To Overtime?


I heard an amusing story which I would like to share with you. 

An account supervisor making $72k works on a worldwide account; as a result she has to keep long hours.  She often has to come in to the office at 6am to do calls with European contacts.  She also sometimes has to stay very late in order to have conversations with Asian counterparts and clients.  She has been employed since the beginning of 2013, but less than a year.

She recently went to her SVP, group director, and demanded (not asked for) overtime.  The group head reminded the supervisor that before she took the job, her hours were spelled out.  The account person had agreed because she wanted to get the worldwide experience; she also wanted to get the product category experience..  She is in her mid-to-late twenties.  When the group head told her that she would not be getting overtime, the account supervisor asked for a $20,000 raise.  That too was denied with the explanation that she had not been at the agency long enough to have earned a salary increase.

The account she is working on is a worldwide excellent package goods account.  The SVP explained to the supervisor that she was making an investment in her future because this experience, which she did not have before (either the package goods or the global experience), was excellent and bankable since she is working on a name-brand global business.

The SVP who is my friend, told me that this account person was, maybe, slightly above average, but her sense of entitlement was extraordinary.

Certainly, long hours have always been part of every advertising agency account manager’s job.  Most account people I know work close to sixty hours.  Creative people work longer. We all think we are underpaid, but long hours are simply part of the business, especially on worldwide and international accounts.

How do you feel about this request?

25 comments:

  1. I do think that jobs in advertising have become so scarce that all the power vests in the buyer--and none in the worker.

    We live in a world where salaries are frozen and raises seem, at times, either paltry or non-existent, with major downward pressure on wages.

    I can understand and empathize with this young account person because it's hard to envision a salary upside.

    Her not being very good at her job is besides the point in my opinion.

    Paying people for their labor--either via money or vacation time--is only fair.

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    1. Thanks, George. That is an accurate and fair assessment. In order to be successful in advertising, one must have both a love for the business and the intestinal fortitude to stay with it.

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  2. There are a couple of issues at play here. First, salaries in advertising have been stagnant for years. A supervisor today makes about what a supervisor made 10 years ago and not that much more than a supervisor made at a big agency 20 years ago ( know because I was one 20 years ago). Advertising salaries have failed to keep up with salaries in other industries and the agency world will continue to loose talent to other industries if it doesn't adjust it salaries. We need to be competitive in this marketplace and we need to attract top talent.

    Second, I'm not surprised by the above story. As a recruiter I have heard similar stories time and again. A sense of entitlement is a strong characteristic of the newest level of talent entering this industry. They routinely look at "what can you, agency, do for me?" as opposed to "what can I do for you?" I have talked to numerous candidates who are looking to make a move who have little tenure in their current job. When asked why they want to make a move I've invariably been told they aren't getting "what they need" or "aren't learning what they want to advance their career" or they "aren't getting the salary they want/deserve". I've also seen a trend where young assistants or account executives leave their jobs without a new one. The reason given more often than not is the individual didn't feel their position was doing enough to further their career so they left without securing a new role. The sense of entitlement is something that, sadly, appears to be here to stay. We in the agency world have a new paradigm which we have to contend with. We need to understand this new generation of talent and not assume that the values of those more senior are shared by their more junior level counterparts.

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    1. Thanks, Nancy.

      Well, I agree and I disagree. Advertising salaries have crept up. Not so much in the last five years, but at least now, entry level seems to be in the low $40's, which is a vast improvement. We are placing account supervisors in the $80-100 range, which is also an improvement. Above that, not so much. Advertising still does not pay well enough, however. There is so much job hopping because of that.

      Where I agree with you is that we are all going to have to learn to deal with millennials. They are here to stay and so are their attitudes. Perhaps in the long run, they will help to create a better working environment in all businesses. However, if they are like most other generations, eventually, they will adapt to the mainstream and become like everyone else. Time will tell.

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  3. If she wanted overtime she should work at McDonald's and get out of the industry for people who enjoy the work.

    Is anyone really surprised that long hours are expected at an advertising agency?

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  4. First, no salaried employee gets overtime in advertising. Maybe a bonus at some point, but no OT. Next, sounds like this gal should learn to manage her time and zones better. Lots of people work on global or geographically dispersed accounts and they're not all working her hours. I think she should ask her boss how the rest of her account group handles the time zone thing - they all can't be in the office at 6:00 a.m. Last, consider flex time both in and out of the office if absolutely necessary. The Asia connection is tough in any case. Bill Crandall

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    1. Bill: As always, an interesting point of view. Thanks for your thoughts.

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  5. I think there are several good points here, including the advice to her about the human capital she is building.

    My best advice to her, however, is to be thankful she is in an industry that can be flexible. Yes, there are 6am calls and meetings that go to 11pm (e.g. annual planning at Kellogg), but there is also the ability to leave early to catch the school play, work from home, and otherwise supervise yourself. As long as you produce quality work and results, you can earn yourself a very flexible work environment.

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    1. Philip, of course you are right. But the ability to work from home, take time off and supervise yourself only comes when an employee earns the trust of their company. Unfortunately, by asking for overtime and demanding a raise, this person cast doubt on her commitment and understanding of her job and her role within it. Too bad, because you are right.

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  6. I have to side with the AS, this women is working stupid hours and is doing a rather good job. It is only fair that she is rewarded equally and fairly. If she feels she is being treated well by her employer, she will bend over backward to make sure she does a good job. Sounds like to me, she will be leaving soon to find a better job, where her employer treats her fairly. It is always junior people who get treated unfairly. This sounds like a issue that is often too common and rarely spoken about due to the sensitive issues raised.

    AJ

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  7. I'm not so sure this young lady has a sense of entitlement, but rather wants to share in the equity she is creating for the agency in a fair and equitable way. The agency position seems to be that it is doing her a favor by letting her get the experience and advance her capabilities. On the other hand, how will the agency respond when the young lady (if she is does advance her skill sets, relationships and business acumen) leaves and becomes a competitor's asset? While we were not there for the actual conversation, it does beg the question as to whether your friend is a stakeholder in the young lady's career or simply managing costs.

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    1. Hi Elliot: Nice, fair and insightful comment.

      Let me address some of it. If you follow my blog and posts, you know that I am constant ranting about agency turnover. It is far too high and much of the churn is avoidable.

      My friend is a fabulous mentor and boss and, indeed, does have a stake in the careers of people who work for her.

      The issue with many of the young executives is the sense that they don't have to work too hard to earn their stripes. Years ago, as an AAE, I routinely worked a 10-12 hour day with never a thought about overtime, bonus or extra compensation. The Millennial generation often puts those things first. I don't think the account person in question has given the equity she is building so much as a millisecond of thought; I know the agency and account well. She is getting great global experience with a willing and receptive client. She just wants to be paid more for working hard. I believe she is about 27 or 28 years old.

      I honestly don't think the agency is doing any favors. They liked her enough to hire her. And if she pulls her share, the agency will do well by her.

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  8. I think that the bigger question shouldn't be, "is this within the status-quo of an agency," but rather "is this status-quo correct?"

    I personally don't think it is. I've been in the industry for a while, and I hate the attitude of "if you aren't willing to devote your life to your work, you're not cut out for advertising" that many people in the industry have. Why is it so foreign to people that some people love the industry, but still see their lives as "work to live, not live to work."

    One commenter in this thread wrote: "If she wanted overtime she should work at McDonald's and get out of the industry for people who enjoy the work.

    Is anyone really surprised that long hours are expected at an advertising agency?"

    This comment kind of made me sick that some people have this pedestaled view of their job. It's a job. It isn't your life, nor should you be expected to make it so.

    Now, I'm not saying that this woman deserved overtime or a raise for working late (although I do make overtime as a salaried employee, but maybe y'all are working at agencies that don't care about their employees as much as they say they do). But I think a bigger conversation of "workaholism" in advertising needs to happen, considering I see people shirking their personal lives, friends, and family in order stay in-office catching up on email correspondence and minor revisions that they could easily do from home, or do the day after.

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    1. Trevor: That is an interesting point of view. What it made me think is that all service businesses - advertising, legal, accountants, etc. all share this issue.

      The question of work life balance is a very individual issue. Many people drop out of advertising (as well as other service businesses) in order to find a more accommodating lifestyle.

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    2. What I'm saying is that it shouldn't be an 'either/or' issue, and people who perpetuate that aren't really anything but advertising elitists.

      Speaking personally, I want a job that is fulfilling both professionally and creatively, and advertising accommodates both of those desires. However, I don't think it's too much to ask to want that and have reasonable hours MOST of the time (I say this because there's no escaping crunch time).

      What's interesting is this is almost exclusively an American/Japanese issue. Agencies in Europe actually have hour LIMITS set on them, where you cannot work over 50 hours a week (I believe that's for France and the Netherlands, the latter of which is a creative advertising powerhouse country). I think it's an extension of the flawed American perspective that more hours de facto equals more productivity, which usually isn't the case.

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  9. Trevor,

    Lets be honest, Europeans may have hours set on them, but you can hardly say to your employer OK i have worked 50 hours now and will stop working. What is written in the HR manual and what does on under the 'unwritten rules of work' are completely different. I at work have the benefit to leave early at 4pm on a Friday, but my boss and colleagues would be working til at least 6pm. Lets call it 'face time'. You can never leave before your boss does!

    AJ

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    1. It's not a choice, it's a legal thing. As in, it's illegal for employers to expect you to work over 50 hours, or factor that into job performance reviews.

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    2. Trevor,

      Yes I agree, that is the law. But you would still be expected to finish servicing your client even if that means taking work home and checking emails. Not putting in the hours means your job performance would suffer and hence getting sacked. I have seen this happen.

      AJ

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  10. Yes, definitely -- for "chronic" overtime only though. When I was a young AE at Y&R, I was assigned to the Eastern Airlines account. This was during the hey day of deregulation and the "fare wars." We would be all ready to go home and all of a sudden a fare ware would erupt and then all hell broke lose. It meant creating the ads, adapting them to market pairs, and getting them off to the type shop. Now it's 9PM. Okay, but to add salt to the wound, you know have to show up at the type shop (remember those?) to proof the ads at 2AM so they could be shipped to the newspapers (remember them? -- LOL!!!) and then you were expected to be in by 10AM the next day. At the time I lived in Central Jersey and it was definitely a hardship. And the AS on the business had no human sensitivity whatsoever -- for some reason he thought he "owned" all your hours. Now compare that to someone who was on General Foods (remember them?). A much easier tax on your time -- trips up to White Plains, civil client dinners, focus groups in Atlanta and Denver. So, yes, when you are expected to work that many hours and lose control of you personal ife you should be entitled to overtime or "combat pay" or whatever you want to call it.

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  11. Show me someone who doesn't feel under paid! Medical Residents are paid less than your account exec, are "limited" to 80 hours per week and have more mental stress and responsibility. I think this individual is lucky to have the job in a very competetive market and needs to prove her worth before she receives more compensation. Thought from another world. RG

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  12. I worked on a global launch for a large agency. We often had conference calls with Australia starting at 9 pm, and even had focus groups that we watched via FocusVision that ran until 3 am. It was the best experience I ever got, and worth every single late night, early morning, and weekend. If that AS was too money-focused to realize it, she will never turn into a great advocate for her clients or a great marketer as she thinks too short term.

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    1. Well, I guess she is looking in the mouth of a gift horse. Some people don't realize what they have until they loose it. Thanks for sharing.

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  13. Being a writer in an agency, I think this is one infuriating attitude that should be rendered extinct: That your advertising job is your life. Whatever happened to your passions, family, personal growth, etc.? All brushed under the carpet under the pretext of "this is how the industry works"? And not getting paid for overtime (or slave-labour, I'd call it) merely rubs salt into your wounds? Something very wrong here with the way the advertising mindset here, don't you think?
    And one thing to put things in perspective: To me, advertising should for a living. Not life.
    NO ONE, including the goddamned agency, owns my life. End rant here.

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    1. @Anonymous: I never took sides on this discussion, I merely posted it hoping for a vigorous response. However, you are clearly very, very angry and I would suggest that you find another profession in which you can employ your talent without all the rancor. Why stay in a job that you obviously resent and hate?

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I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

 
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