Wieden+Kennedy lays off 11 per cent – does this put the agency into play?

Wieden+Kennedy is laying off 11 per cent of its staff due to Covid, about 160-170 people.

If W+K, which has recently landed major clients including Facebook, McDonald’s and Ford, is being forced into such measures imagine the carnage elsewhere.

But W+K, still proudly independent 38 years on, is privately-held so can’t tap external shareholders for funds. Which may prompt some musing on the part of people who would like to be shareholders in the Portland-based eight-strong network.

A few years ago the bosses of the ad holding companies, gathered in Cannes, were asked which agency they would most like to add to their empires. W+K easily came top. Not much has changed since as newer pretenders to the creative agency crown like Droga5 and adam&eve have been snapped up by Accenture and DDB respectively.

These days, of course, as the Accenture move indicates, ad holding companies aren’t the only predators in town. In fact they’re a pretty toothless lot as they grapple with their own Covid problems.

Private equity, a tech company or another consultancy are the likeliest suitors for the likes of W+K. Portland is a long way from many places but not southern California or Microsoft’s home town Seattle.

In Covid, alas, your fate isn’t solely in your own hands.

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About Stephen Foster

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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.