Covid-19 shake-out starts to hit senior agency staff – an opportunity for the newbies?

When all this is over – with our usual caveat, if it ever is – there’ll be some well-known faces missing as the ad industry inevitably contracts.

As ever in such times, the big holding companies and others will spring clean their top ranks, partly to save money, partly because an unarguable crisis gives them the opportunity to.

More news of these moves seems to emerge from the US than anywhere else. Havas Creative is parting ways with North America chairman and CEO Paul Marobella (below) who’s being replaced by global CCO Stephanie Nerlich.

Havas global CEO Chris Hirst says: “We believe that our organization is simply the sum of our people. To be a leading creative company, we must have more than our fair share of top talent and a range of diverse skill-sets and backgrounds. Stephanie fits that bill – she’s a proven leader who drives results and we are extremely lucky to have her on the team.” He thanked Marobella for eight years of “dedicated service.”

Havas is now owned by Vivendi, a music and broadcast giant hardly known for excess sentiment. At one point it looked as though Vivendi boss Vincent Bolloré (son Yannick runs Havas) might use the crisis to expand Havas, possibly with an opportunistic bid for long-time French rival Publicis. But Bolloré senior may well think that, however agencies come out of this, they’re likely to be smaller and less profitable.

Running a big agency must be a miserable business at the moment, chiefly cost-cutting which means firing people. Many senior execs who’ve earned well over the years – mostly middle-aged white males – may feel that enough is enough, particularly if there’s a reasonably generous severance deal.

The consequence for whoever’s left standing is a talent and experience shortage, the two main reasons clients go to agencies in the first place (whatever they may claim to possess in their data locker.)

Which leads you to think there may never have been a better time to start a new agency, provided you have the financial firepower to ride out the storm.

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