The true scale of the downturn affecting the ad industry became
painfully evident last week when Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO declared 18
staff redundant. It wasn't so much the number of job losses - sad and
serious though they were - but the fact it's the UK flagship agency that
has been forced to make them.
Doubtless, a significant number of agency chief executives are currently
waking in the small hours thinking that if AMV has had to bite the
redundancy bullet then heaven help everybody else. This time of economic
turmoil will be a testing period, not least of whether it has learned
how to manage its staff in a mature manner.
At AMV, which puts the decent treatment of its people at the core of its
credo, this is a given. The fear is that too many other agencies, having
failed to learn the lessons of recession history, are doomed to repeat
them. Indeed, it's a near certainty that there will be tales of
managerial hamfistedness resulting in embittered ex-employees
bad-mouthing agencies from without while demoralised workers languish
How can all this be avoided? Absolute honesty and discretion is the
key.Agencies must be succinct and to-the-point with staff who they are
And they might do well to heed the advice of some experts who suggest
having somebody around to provide an independent shoulder to cry on.
Better that victims have a place at the agency where they can dump their
anger rather than take it away with them.
At the same time, staff must be motivated to find a new job safe in the
knowledge that they have been made redundant for a genuine reason, such
as the loss of a cornerstone account. No-one should have to feel they've
been shafted as a quick money-saving measure.
And when the redundancies are complete, what of those who remain? Many
are likely to have to take on extra work at a time when their morale has
been battered and amid fears that the current round of redundancies may
not be the last. It's then that agencies can find their best people
heading for the exit.
After the last recession the industry paid a terrible price for its
"blunt instrument" approach to the management of its staff, many of whom
left, never to return. May it never make the same mistake again.