The New Cynopsis Media Salary Survey

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By: Dave Zornow

“Experienced salesperson wanted, 16+ years experience – will pay top dollar.” That’s just one of the classified ads you could write based on the 2016 Cynopsis salary survey findings. Complete the form below to access the full report.

The average salary for sales / distribution staff with 16+ years at their current company was $192,700. All of the top salaries by job classification belonged to older employees or staff with deep experience, including Legal / Finance ($182,100 with 16+ years of industry experience) and Programming ($175,400, 16+ years in the business).

Which probably leaves Millennials wondering where they can go to make some big bucks before they turn gray. Legal/Finance ($124,100) and Sales/Distribution (both at $110,800) are both good destinations, with each segment leading the list of highest salaries for employees under 45.

Who works hardest for their money? That’s an easy question to answer: everyone. All employees surveyed said they average more than 40 hours on the job each week. Buyers/Planners, Sales/Distribution and Marketing/PR staff tied for top overtime honors, recording an average of 46 hours per week.

There’s a $31,700 gender gap in annual salary. In some groups like Finance/Legal, the yearly difference can be as much as $50,000. In several departments, women are more likely to work in lower paying support positions (admin, associate, coordinator), which might explain some, but not all of the difference. Working part time does not appear to be a factor: three percent of respondents said they worked less than 40 hours each week; their average reported salaries are on par with everyone who is working a full work week.

The Northeast offers top pay for Buyers/Planners ($94,800), Sales/Distribution ($138,700) and Research ($113,000). The West is where it’s at to make top dollar in Programming ($126,900), Marketing/PR ($113,500) and Production ($126,200).

Respondents were asked about some fringe benefits they receive. More than half (55%) say their company provides maternity leave; one in three also permit paternity leave. After their new arrival arrives, employees say employers offer childcare (for 6% of respondents), flexible scheduling (32%) and telecommuting (21%). With everyone averaging more than 40 hours each week, free meals is a nice perk to support those extra hours, a benefit enjoyed by 11 percent of employees. A little bit more than one in four respondents say their company encourages participating in volunteer programs. And 16% of respondents say their job is just about the money: their company doesn’t offer any “soft benefits” to their employees.

The only constant in today’s business world is change, and 82 percent of respondents say that education is essential to their company and should continue to be a priority in the future. Social media was named as an essential department by 41% of employees.

The 2016 Cynopsis salary survey was conducted between August 29 and Sept 12, 2016. Usable questionnaires from 2,777 respondents were collected via a web based survey. Tabulated cells with less than 25 respondents have been marked with an asterisk as their results may be less stable because of smaller sample sizes.


Buyers & Planners

For many, buying and planning is a great place to start your career. But if you are one of the few who stick around, this year’s survey suggests you will be richly rewarded for your experience.

Eight out of ten respondents who work in buying or planning are under 45. But with age comes experience and higher compensation: older buyers/planners average 50% higher salaries than their younger peers. About 4 in 10 buyers or planners less than 45 years old hold admin/coordinator/associate jobs.

What you take home has a lot to do with where you call home. Northeast buyers and planners top the list at almost $95,000 a year, followed by respondents in the West ($85,900) and the Midwest ($65,900). Buyers and planners and firms with 100+ employees have 20% higher take home pay than smaller (fewer than 100 on staff) companies.

The 40 hour work week is fairy tale from days gone by, with all job classifications working a few extra hours each week just to keep up. Support staff average six extra hours each week. VPs and SVPs log 48-49 hours each week.

A little bit more than half of the buyers and planners surveyed are satisfied with their yearly take home pay (54%). The less-than-satisfied number is four in ten. That includes 14 percent who say they are very dissatisfied – the highest percent of displeasure expressed by any job classification.

About half of the buyers and planners surveyed (47%) received a bonus in 2016 – a much smaller percent than was reported in the 2015 survey (75%). However, the good news is that the size of the average bonus in 2016 increased by six percent.

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Sales & Distribution

If you have to start at the bottom and work your way up, the sales department isn’t a bad place to begin. Administrative/Coordinators/Associates average about $59,000 in sales and distribution rules. Similar positions in the buying and planning groups pay about $13,600 less.

Who’s closing deals? It’s almost an even split between men and women (male/female skew is 55%/45%). However, women’s take home pay is more than $40,000 less than the average men make each year. Women are more likely to be in Admin/Associate jobs (M/F composition is 15% vs 25%) and men have a higher percentage of Director, VP and SVP positions (47% vs 31%).

It’s likely you will be getting your next sales call from a millennial: 66% of respondents in this department said they were less than 45 years old. The majority (56%) of sales/distribution jobs are located in the Northeast.

Three quarters of this group received bonuses last year, averaging about $21,000. Seven out of ten sales/distribution respondents said they are satisfied with their yearly salary.

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Who is working in the research department? Based on responses to the 2016 salary survey, she’s less than 45, works in the Northeast, has been with the company for eight years or less and works an average of 44 hours each week.

It’s best to have a wide range of experience in this increasingly digital world. But if you want to make more than your research peers, take your diverse background to a cable network, where researchers are typically paid more than their contemporaries in broadcast or at ad agencies. Cable researchers’ yearly take home pay is $8,000 more than their broadcast brethren and almost $30,000 higher than what ad agency researchers make. Just short of 70% of researchers have been with their company for eight years or less, earning an average of $92,500. They can expect to make as much as $155,000 or more if they stick with their current employer for another eight years. 

Members of the research department average 42 hours (for admin/associate jobs) to 46 hours a week (for VPs) in a typical work week. Six in ten received a bonus in 2016 averaging $13,500. Seventy percent of respondents who work in research say they are very or somewhat satisfied with their compensation. As a group, they are more contented than any other job sector: a little less than five percent of researchers say they are very dissatisfied with their salary.

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Although women hold a few more jobs than men in the programming department, they are more likely to be in an administrative or entry level position which partially accounts for the fact that their average salary trails men by more than $35,000.

One in three women in the programming department have an admin or similar job, more than double the percent for men (15%).

Programmers on the West Coast average $11,000 more each year in salary than respondents living in the Northeast. Industry veterans having 16 or more years in the business average $175,000 a year.

Small is a beautiful place to work if you are a programmer. Respondents who work for companies with 100 or fewer on staff say they make $20,000 more than peers at firms with 1000+ employees.

Managers in the programming division are likely to work more hours per week than their peers in other departments, punching out at 49 hours weekly– four more hours on the job than everyone else in the programming department.

Bonuses were handed out to 68% of respondents who listed programming in their job responsibilities, averaging more than $16,000 each.

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Marketing / Public Relations

More than half (53%) of respondents from the marketing or public relations departments work in the Northeast. But that half isn’t doing as well as the 26% who work in the West, who average $5200 a year more than their more numerous peers in the Northeast.

Marketing/PR professionals at ad agencies make about $10,000 less than staff with similar job titles in broadcast and cable. Women hold 67% of the jobs in Marketing and Public Relations but a disproportionate number of administrative and support positions, which explains why their average pay trails men by more than $23,000.

Six out of ten respondents who work in Marketing/PR say they received a bonus in 2016. The average bonus was just short of $13,000.

About 61% of respondents in this field say they are satisfied with their annual pay.

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Production / Writing / Business Development

Here’s a job where sticking with the task, honing your skill set and developing a reputation can pay off: respondents in this segment over age 45 are earn an average of $60,000 more per year than those younger than 45. If you’ve logged eight or more years in the industry, your average pay is over $121,000. Employees with less than eight years in the biz only make around $72,500. There’s a sharp break at eight years with the same company, too: eight and 16 year veterans make $146,000 and $150,000 respectively. Less than eight years with the same company nets you $35,000 less each year.

SVPs and VPs who write or produce put in some of the longest weeks of anyone in the media business. The average for everyone in this segment is five hours of overtime each week; these executives average 49 and 50 hours of work each week.

It’s just as likely to find a woman working in Production/Writing/Business Development as a man (51%/49% Male/Female). However, women hold more than twice as many lower paying support positions than men, leading to a $31,000 salary differential in men’s favor.

Freelancers are the big winners in the Production/Writing/Business Development business. Their average pay of $137,600 is far ahead of what agency ($125,400), Broadcast ($117,100) and Cable people ($112,600) take home.

Less than half (42%) brought home a bonus in 2016. Bonuses for this group averaged $14,500. Fifty-seven percent of respondents in this segment said they are satisfied with their yearly salary.

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Legal / Finance

If you have a question for the finance department or the corporate lawyers, odds are you are calling someone in New York or California: nine out of ten respondents who said they worked in these disciplines come from the Northeast or the West. According to the participants in this survey, men average more than $49,000 more each year than women. Insights gleaned from 16 or more years in the business can certainly pay off: a long career in the industry nets an average salary of $182,000 compared to the segment average of $137,400.

Two thirds of all Legal/Finance employees received bonuses last year that averaged about $17,500. Six in ten are satisfied with their salaries.

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Operations / Human Resources

Age and experience are factors in this business segment as well. Respondents 46 and older average $63,000 more than younger employees; staff with 16+ years industry experience make almost 2.5 times more than new employees with eight years or less under their belt.

The average number of hours worked each week by the Operations and Human resources departments is 45. The average compensation is $118,800, ranging from a low of $57,000 for admin/support staff to $218,000 for Veeps and Senior Vice Presidents.

61% of respondents received a bonus last year averaging $14,000. One out of three employees say they are less than satisfied with their take home pay.

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Dave Zornow is President of TNG Research, a media research consultancy and applications development company that works with media sellers and research providers.