Senior jobs cull gathers speed in adland

Agency Spy’s Revolving Door feature is spinning at dizzying speed these days as US creative agencies appear to be experiencing a cull of ferocious proportions.

Today we have Publicis closing Leo Burnett Chicago’s Greenhouse production unit, CP+B closing its LA office after 17 years and, more significantly perhaps, new Omnicom-owned DDB US boss Paul Gunning axing the CMO, CFO and ‘Chief Creative Technology’ posts in New York.

Gunning moved over from DDB’s big Tribal digital unit and it seems that the digerati are now going to be playing a far larger role at DDB New York. DDB was once the quintessential native New Yorker agency although these days its core is in Chicago.

The newish CEO of a big agency in London recently opened the conversation by saying he wasn’t sure how long he’d be there as CEOs seemed to have a remarkably short shelf like these days. It was a jokey remark but he meant it too.

Client cutbacks, which are making it harder for holding companies to deliver their numbers, is surely the reason and will surely continue into 2018 and beyond. Christmas is the favoured time for getting rid of high profile people as the PRs think we won’t notice. We do of course, often when they go too.

It’s even dangerous taking a new job. The old team at Y&R London was still recruiting at a senior level when they discovered that digital agency VML was going to subsume Y&R in the VMLY&R merger. The PR at one agency told me she left one to go to another recently only to find the job had disappeared before she got there.

Another reason is duplication. Many big creative agencies brought their own digital wizards on board to try to modernise, forgetting the fact that they already employed some of the same in their digital units. Melding the two groups together doesn’t always work. DDB in London tried its own Tribal merger before it bought adam&eve, chiefly to hang on to its big Virgin Media account. That went to BBH though and the main agency and Tribal are back to side by side.

Would anyone want a job in an agency who wasn’t already working in one?

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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