Additional Layoffs Hit Atlanta

As the latest wave of layoffs swept through town last week, some agency principals were struggling with the need to downsize. Other shops were swooping up talent, suddenly available at discounted prices.

Sources in Atlanta confirmed that Cole Henderson Drake, Fricks/Firestone and Turner Fernandez Turner together laid off nearly two dozen personnel.

Turner dismissed four employees after it came up short in the Georgia tourism review last month, sources said.

Fricks/Firestone (2000 billings of $73 million) let go nine staffers as a result of a “shift in client spending priorities … Our clients hedge against recession by cutting back inventory,” said agency president John Fricks. “Our inventory is people. Our only hedge is to control people costs.”

BaylessCronin (2000 billings of $43 million) took another approach. The shop, which had reduced its workforce by about 10 percent earlier this year, put in place an across-the-board pay cut.

“Our remaining people are key,” said president Tim Bayless. “So Jerry Cronin and I tried to find a fair way to help us make the numbers while protecting our people. We took a salary percentage and asked people if they’d be willing to suck it up. Everyone said it was a fair and good idea.” Bayless said the staff agreed to a 10 percent salary cut.

Cole Henderson Drake’s layoffs were triggered by the loss of its Snapper lawn products and a dramatic cutback in spending by Apyron Technologies.

“We were already running lean,” said Chris Jacobs, creative director and vice chairman at CHD (1999 billings of $28 million). “But we finally got to the point with clients being so soft, we had to evaluate positions, not people. A couple of the positions we let go were luxuries. They made things run smoothly, but when push came to shove, we could survive without them.”

Jacobs immediately went on a modest shopping spree, hiring Wendy Williams Brantley as director of contact strategies and creatives Rusty Doss and Jan Sharrow.

“There are so many great people out there,” Jacobs said. “Economic downturns cause problems, but they are also great opportunities to fix things.”

BBDO South, thanks to its piece of the $250 million Cingular Wireless win last winter, is in a hiring mode. The agency (2000 billings of $392 million) announced 13 new hires this week.