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Hot job market
for planners and buyers

Big push to hire media folks with experience

By Kevin Downey

   The recovering media economy, coupled with agencies making up for the lack of hiring that went on during the recession, is creating an exceptional job market for media planners and buyers, notably those with about five years of experience.
  That's a big change.
   Media departments earlier this decade cut hundreds of jobs following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and during the recession. Since then many people have been leaving media departments to find work elsewhere and, as happened during previous recessions, entry-level people simply were not hired.
But now that the media economy is recovering--up 4.4 percent in first quarter--agencies are beefing up staffs but also struggling to find media planners and buyers with a few years' experience.
Atlanta-based Talent Zoo says the number of media jobs available is roughly three times greater than it was this time last year, with the heaviest demand for these hard-to-find mid-level planners and buyers.
   “It’s not just people with about five years experience,” says Ragan Jones, vice president of recruiting at Talent Zoo.
“People who started in the 1990s but were laid off in the early 2000s were forced to go find work in other industries. So, the people who survived are in the minority, and our clients are scrambling to find that talent.”
Talent Zoo says only 2 percent of media people finding jobs now were unemployed when hired, compared to 30 percent last year.
Patricia Sklar, president of the national recruiting firm Sklar & Associates, says the job market is picking up around the country.
“There is demand for good media people at all levels,” she says. “Every market has its own nuances. San Francisco is coming back and New York, because it’s the kingpin, is always strong.”
Sklar agrees that demand is heaviest for planners and buyers with a few years experience, but she adds that the job market is also hot for anyone with online experience.
“The demand is very strong for online,” she says. “I see people with two years' experience asking for a huge amount of money. But there is demand for good media professionals all around.”
Talent Zoo’s Jones says the heavy demand for talent is causing salaries to go up and notes that companies are paying higher salaries than a year ago and many are offering counteroffers for employees courted by other agencies. Salaries are going up for the most in-demand employees, which in turn is pushing salaries up for higher-level positions.
“Hiring is back up because agencies have been running on a skeleton crew for so long,” she says. “And there is a lot more turnover because people can [move around]. There are a lot more options out there. And people don’t need to relocate as much as they did two or three years ago.”
While the current job market is good for media planners and buyers, it’s putting a squeeze on agencies.
Jones says that because of the dearth of mid-level talent, she's advising agencies to train junior employees to take on more responsibilities, or pay for someone with several years experience.
“You might not find exactly what you need,” she says. “You might not find someone with five years' experience, so you may need to settle with someone with three and a half or [pay for] someone with six. If you’re a stickler in that midrange, you are going to get the short end of the stick. It’s a supply and demand issue."

Aug. 25, 2005 © 2005 Media Life

- Kevin Downey is a staff writer for Media Life.

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