This week, I decided to write about the unspoken topic of how to ask for more money as a planner.
Your talent is only a small factor that goes into deciding how much you get paid.
I’ve seen Planning Directors get paid double their colleague who are much smarter and capable employee because of external factors. In most agencies what people get paid is dependent on the time when they are asking and the external factors at play.
You have to be top of the class
If you’re asking for a raise you must be in the top 25% planners in your department. If you are in the bottom half, most planning leads will probably be trying to cycle you out for stronger talent.
The good news is that a lot people usually do not stay in the bottom half or the top half. You will usually cycle in and out of different levels of value to your boss.
A very common cycle I see with planners; first 12 to 18 months they work their asses off proving themselves, 18-24 months they land some big wins that put them in the top 25%; they ask for a raise and get it, 24-36 months they are back at the bottom trying to prove themselves against the new salary.
Position future value not past performance
This is a great lesson that I learned the hard way, I used to go in for raise conversations talking about all the amazing things that I had done for the agency and how hard I worked. What I realized is, you do not get raise on past performance but rather on the value you offer the agency moving forward.
Understanding your boss and senior management’s vision for the future is key. Make sure you sell all your past performance through this lens.
At an agency I worked at, the focus moved quickly from planning awards to being digitally led. So I made sure that all the work that I was talking about was showing how I was able to make the work more digitally focused instead of the awards it had won being the focus.
The harsh reality is that raises are used to keep people at agencies. Even proactive raises are usually thought of as a way to make sure you don’t start looking.
If a person in the top 25% asks for a raise and senior management does not sense that they will leave if they say no, then they will probably not give you a raise. They will need to sense in some way that you could leave if you don’t get the raise.
Sometimes agencies will require you to go all the way and get another offer. If you do this, make sure that you let them know the specific amount you are being asked for and when you have to respond by. Don’t let them talk you out of the deal before you get an agreement on the raise amount.
You also have to be comfortable with walking. Just remember raises only go to the top 25%. If you are not in the top 25% and come in with a counter, you will be further down the shit list or pushed in to take the other agency offer.
There are a number of external factors that determine when you get a raise, it is important that you make these moments work for you.
1. Senior Departures
When senior planners leave there will be good cash flow and until they fill that position that money can potentially be yours.
2. New Business Wins
If you have new business wins which will require more staff this is an ideal moment, there will usually be money that they can peel away from a new hire and put towards you. Especially if you are going to be working on that piece of business.
3. Key Client Moments
You need to gauge how valuable your boss and senior management find your account. E.g If they value revenue and your account is the biggest revenue driver then you are in a good spot. Awards and your account hauls awards, you're golden.
The second part to this is that you need to make yourself indispensable to the key clients. If the loss of you on the account would have an impact on the security of the account then you will have a lot of leverage.
4. Time of the year
You need to figure out how your agency reports its finances and then how that impacts salary conversations. There will usually be a forecasting time of the year where the CSO will put in how much they think their staff will cost for the next calendar year, you need to make sure you are asking before this window. Some agencies will let you know when raises will happen.
Money isn’t everything
None of us got into planning to make money. I feel lucky that I get paid to use my brain all day to solve creative problems!
However, the harsh reality is that for the majority of us we probably won’t have a job in advertising post 40.
Advertising is a young man’s game. We will be underpaid in comparison to other business graduates for the first quarter of our career. Therefore you need to be maximizing your income in the second half of your career or you're in trouble.
Short term gains don’t always equal long term gains
The first half of your career should be setting you up for the back half. The problem for a lot of junior planners is they jump at money that doesn’t set them up for future gains.
In the start of your career, you want to be working at the best agencies, with the best planners that are winning the most awards.
You should be getting your foot in at a great agency working on any piece of business and then work overtime on the agencies best piece of business so you can get great work under your belt. Getting great case studies under your belt early will set you up for the back half.
Don’t take the job working at the no name agency working on the big boring client that will never do great work because you earn an extra $10k.
Just a couple of my hot takes! Good luck!