Layoffs and furloughs hit the advertising industry

(Layoffs hit Grey, DDB, BBDO)

While it has been expected and discussed for some time with the economy rattled due to the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, the advertising industry has finally begun to feel the brunt. Several prominent agencies laid off and furloughed many of their employees this week.

According to Ad Age, the New York headquarters of Grey has gone through a round of furloughs, approximately 3.5 percent of its Manhattan staff. With a staff of over 1000, this would put the amount of people affected in the lower double digits. Voluntary salary reductions are also a part of it.

“While it’s always unfortunate, the rebalancing of staff is based on client budgets for this year, the loss of some revenue from last year, and the skill sets we’ll need moving forward,” the agency representative told Ad Age.

DDB, Chicago and BBDO hit

Thursday was also a tough day for our friends at DDB Chicago who went through a round of layoffs impacting around 30 employees across all departments, according to a source.

A message was issued from DDB leadership which AgencySpy got a hold of.

“COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our clients, our people and our partners across industries. We took several actions, including but not limited to salary and hour adjustments, furloughs, infrastructure changes, and lastly, after every cost-cutting measure, we have also had to lay some people off,” DDB U.S. president and COO Paul Gunning said in a statement. “These are times unlike any we’ve ever seen, and I am deeply committed to making every effort to get us through this and come out stronger.”


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Near the end of the day, Gunning sent out an email, “We have completed our tasks for today” and informing recipients he would see them on the morning Zoom call.


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DDB has reportedly implemented an unknown number of furloughs, salary reductions, structured retirements and deals to move employees to four-day and three-day work weeks, according to a source.

The measures followed Omnicom CEO John Wren outlining a series of measures that would be taken across Omnicom agencies earlier this week, including layoffs, furloughs and salary reductions.


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Our other friends at BBDO were hit particularly hard this week as the agency reduced its staff by 10-13% across the country, including BBDO New York CCO Greg Hahn and Director of Integrated Production David Rolfe.

Hahn was a part of BBDO New York lasted 15 years, with the last seven as CCO. He steered some of the agency’s most celebrated campaigns, including multi-platform efforts for Snickers, Fedex, HBO and AT&T.

He also worked alongside BBDO Worldwide Chief Creative Officer and BBDO North America Chairman David Lubars on iconic campaigns including BMW Films and EDS’ “Cat Herders.”

Lubars is reportedly “heartbroken” by the decision.

WPP’s CEO Mark Read has told Ad Age that the holding company is reluctantly bracing for layoffs. “Our principle is: protect our people to protect the company, so we’re ready when we come out on the other side of this … but, realistically, we have to expect there will be layoffs.”

Drum Agency goes off grid

According to anonymous tip to Reel 360, the Drum Agency which was headquartered in Atlanta and had an office in Chicago has shut its doors. When we went to its website, we got this:

If you have tips about layoffs or furloughs please send them to [email protected] or [email protected]. We will keep them confidential.

SOURCE: Various

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