Dozens Opt to Leave Lowe Lintas

Dozens of employees have accepted an offer of “voluntary layoffs” at Lowe Lintas & Partners in New York, sources said last week. The latest cuts bring the total number of layoffs at the agency to more than 150 in the past 12 months.

The estimated 22 percent reduction in staff since October 2000 leaves a head count of about 625.

The offer, which provided an added financial incentive for staffers to leave of their own accord, was extended by U.S. CEO Paul Hammersley two weeks ago [Adweek Online, Oct. 3]. Response was strong as some 150 staffers inquired about the deal.

Ultimately, “less than 40” decided to leave, one executive said. Hammersley declined comment, but sources said a select number of senior staffers may still be let go to further reduce costs.

Generally, the agency provides one week of severance pay for each year of service, with senior staffers receiving more as they pass certain milestones. It was unclear what specific incentive was extended in this case.

When Hammersley made the offer, he said it was an “attempt to soften the blow” of what was a “nasty thing to do,” referring to inevitable layoffs. He said the cuts were necessitated by a lack of new-business opportunities and continued decline in client spending.

The latest round of layoffs came as word surfaced that Lowe Lintas was losing its $85 million Sprite account in a reshuffling of brand assignments among Coca-Cola roster shops (see story, p. 3). The agency, however, is gaining global duties on Diet Coke, with estimated billings of $75 million. In addition, Coke and Nestle are consolidating $75-100 million in global ad duties on teas and coffees at Lowe Lintas, through a joint venture known as Beverage Partners Worldwide.

While the wins will help offset significant 2001 losses such as Sprite, Dell and UPS, the agency’s New York office will share the new billings with offices in Europe and Latin America.

Lowe Lintas has offered voluntary layoffs before. Last year, some 60 London staffers agreed to leave during a three-month period.
Andrew McMains