I Want a Raise

This story is going to sound very familiar to you.

It wasn't inspired by any specific set of circumstances that happened to a colleague within the last month. Six months. Or even a year. Because the truth is, it has happened to me. And it has happened to you. And if it hasn't happened to you, trust me it will.

You take on a new job.

You're excited.

And you've got a hard-on for the business.

Doesn't have to be advertising, but for the sake of this piece, and because it's like shooting dead stinky flat fish in a barrel, let's say it is.

You dig in, drink the Kool Aid and devote yourself to the craft. That means taking on a leadership role. Not only voicing a strong opinion but doing the homework and the legwork to back it up. It can be a grind. You eat a tiny bowl of shit once in a while. And you bite your tongue when you have to.

But it's all for the good of the team. And the agency.

A year or two later, you start to see the fruits of your labor. Business picks up. You notch a few pitch victories. And get some decent TV spots out the door....oh, I'm sorry, Integrated Branded Content Units.

All the hard work has paid off. Or at least, in theory, it should.

Because the closed-door, throbbing-vein meeting with the agency CEO did not go as well as you had hoped.

"We'd like to give you a promotion, we really would. And we'd like to give you a bump in salary, but we really can't. I know we had discussed the idea of incentives and bonuses when we first hired you, but as you know, we've all had to tighten our belts."


We've all had to tighten our belts?

Then why am I picking up the Wall St. Journal and reading about a 43% pay hike for the holding company officers?

Why is Business Insider doing a photo shoot of the coolest vacation homes belonging to the 37 Wealthiest Ad Pros? 23 of whom work for this organization?

And how does the agency afford your three times a week in-office Bikram Yoga Sessions?

"Company policy says you're not supposed to be reading the Wall St. Journal, Business Insider, Adweek, Adage, or Mediabistro. Agency employees are also requested not to look at any SEC filings or publicly disclosed financial documents. And under no circumstances are agency staff permitted to read adaged.com, adcontrarian.com, rotationandbalance.com, and definitely not RoundSeventeen."

And so you do what any disgruntled employee would do.

But you never get out of the car at the gun store parking lot. And instead start interviewing with another agency. They are impressed with your achievements and make you an offer you can't refuse.

Not without some delicious feeling of delight, you give your two week notice.

And suddenly, the belt that was supposed to be tightened, miraculously becomes loose. Especially after the agency does the calculations and decides it would cost more to replace you than to properly butter your bread as they originally promised.

Too late, you tell them.

And rightfully so.

If this has happened once, it's happened a million times. It's happening right now.

Some mid-level creative has sweated all weekend long to build up the courage and request a chat with the CCO or CEO. And even as you are reading this, some muckutty-muck is hemming and hawing his or her way through a convoluted monetary discussion that boils down to:

"There's plenty for us, there's none for you."

When I am asked to give advice to younger people, you know younger than 44, I always tell them to strike while the metal is hot.

If you are lucky enough to hit a home run in this business or even knock out a few triples with players in scoring position, you must immediately translate that into some form of compensation.

Do not take "no" for answer.

Because the people you are working for, the ones telling you there is no money, these are the same people who are capitalizing on your success. They're slapping their names on the credit list. They're sitting on panels, bloviating about their imaginary contribution to the idea. They're having private conversations with their bosses. They're asking for more money.

And guess what, they're getting it.