It was long ago, but I’ll not forget the day I was made redundant
or the crude and callous way it was done. Not my ashen-faced union rep
deputed by a cowardly management to tell me my fate. Not my stumbling
words on the phone as I broke the news to my wife.
And certainly not the editorial director who sailed in a couple of days
later to reel off some figures about the parlous state of the group’s
finances and to assure us latest additions to the jobless statistics
that what had happened was in no way a reflection on our talent. Just
My mind sometimes drifts back to that time when I hear merging global
networks talk euphemistically of making economies of scale and the need
to cut out duplication, or agency chairmen explain their latest bit of
You ask how many jobs will be lost. Not many, they answer. You could
count them on the fingers of one hand. What’s more, it will only be a
few low-level support staff. Nobody of any consequence is the
implication and certainly not deserving of much respect.
So it’s heartening to hear that the newly merged Lowe Lintas & Partners
is not planning to use the blunt instrument usually employed by agencies
to cull surplus staff but to ask for voluntary redundancies.
This is a novel idea in an industry which prides itself on being a
people business but makes a habit of swallowing them whole and spitting
Of course, agencies are obliged to keep staffing costs in check. The
death last year of Leagas Shafron Davis is a warning of the consequences
of maintaining staff levels in the wake of serious losses in the hope
that something will turn up. Moreover, the high salaries paid by the
industry are part compensation for the perpetual pressures and fragile
But if redundancies are a fact of life in advertising, will the Lowe
Lintas experiment prove the best way of confronting a necessary
For one thing, it may allow more generous payments to those choosing to
take redundancy. For another, it could help the agency identify personal
and organisational problems not foreseen when the merger was
In trying to find out why a highly valued staffer asks to take the money
and go, senior managers may find there are important tweaks to be made
if the marriage is to run smoothly. Maybe it’s simply that somebody has
not been cherished enough or that there is a chemistry problem within a
department to be resolved.
The Lowe Lintas initiative could leave everybody a winner. Those who go
do so out of choice and with proper compensation. Those who stay are
happy and motivated. Well, that’s the theory. Let’s hope it works.
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