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Wieden+Kennedy axes 20% in Portland

Wieden+Kennedy Portland, the HQ of what remains the world’s flagship independent creative agency, is laying off 90 people, a swingeing 20% of its staff.

Portland president Jason White says: “Layoffs are terrible. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. But we’ve gotten to a place in Portland where we need to make changes to align better with how our clients work. Saying goodbye to any of our people is always a last resort, and we never make that decision lightly. Our focus right now is supporting everyone through this transition.”

‘Aligning better with client work’ isn’t just the usual guff in these circumstances, it probably describes the switch to project work and client preference to have a number of agencies on call, pitching for each big task. W+K Portland has also been overtaken by W+K New York which (for now) has 479 people against Portland’s about-to-be-reduced 440.

Big, established creative agencies, mostly owned by holding companies, are struggling across the board and the rise of AI is going to make things worse. Seeing W+K Portland wielding the axe, however reluctantly, will embolden the likes of WPP to make big changes too.

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