Finally, some good news—salaries are back! At least, according to the 24th annual MM&M Career & Salary Survey. And by “back,” I mean the average salary is up 5.4% to $129,200 this year, representing a welcome—albeit cautious—return to 2008 levels.

Of course, not everyone is cheering. While pharma and biotech employees reported a healthy 11.2% increase to $156,026, some other areas fared not so well. Print media, for example, saw double-digit declines, as did service suppliers (vendors).

By drilling a little deeper into the data, another, rather unexpected, phenomenon jumped out:  a surge in happiness among agency employees vs. other types of company. While 55.2% of respondents overall rate their advancement prospects to be “excellent or good,” for agency employees only this figure shoots up to 67.3% (vs. 58.1% last year). This translates into retention, too. Just 31.0% of agency people say they plan to seek a new job in the next 12 months vs. 36.6% last year. And yet the average salary for these people has risen just 1.6% this year (vs. the aforementioned 11%-plus in pharma). Just what is it that agencies are doing so right to keep their people happy?
The answers may lie in a wide range of initiatives to train, empower, motivate and show appreciation of their people in ways not necessarily tied to a pay check, as well as create that all-important intangible—work culture. Tanya Lewis reports on a several intiatives in “What’s in it for Me?”

As well as devising a slew of internal training programs, from lunch ‘n’ learns to more rigid “university” classes, many agencies are also getting creative in how they motivate and entertain staff. For example, Kane & Finkel is one of several firms offering a “whimsical” MVP award program, won recently by one employee for having the “most valuable hair.” Meanwhile, HealthEd CEO Roy Broadfoot invites his entire firm to his house for a pool party every summer, while both Harrison & Star and ICC treat staffers to dinner cruises around Manhattan. Volunteer and charitable activities are also high on the agenda.

According to Susan DiDonato, EVP and chief talent officer at the recently merged entity Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, opportunities for learning and for achieving a work/life balance are bigger priorities than money for many candidates she interviews, representing what she sees as a “big shift” over the past 10 years.

This trend is seemingly borne out by our survey: While salary is admittedly ranked the most important factor to a job overall, the number of respondents ranking it #1 was just 58%—this means that 42% of all respondents value something else above salary. Now that’s something to think about.

There’s just time for a short, shameless plug for one of our sister publications, The Pharmaceutical Marketers Directory. Shameless, because I think it’s a phenomenal resource and I use it all the time. The new PMD is out now and it’s a beast of a book. In all, more than 4,000 companies and 17,000 executives are featured, with almost 6,000 new contacts added in this edition. For manufacturers alone (pharma/biotech/devices) there are more than 1,500 companies and 12,000 executive contacts. To order yours, go to

Finally, good luck to all our MM&M Awards finalists. The overall winners, of course, will be revealed for the first time at our awards event on October 12 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York. We’ll see you there.