Layoffs Rock N.E. Agencies

Layoffs have begun to plague some New England agencies with shops fearing a sharp economic downturn or feeling the sting of client budget cuts.

Smash Advertising, Mintz & Hoke and Leo Burnett Technology Group have each cut staff. Executives at both Smash and Mintz & Hoke described the cuts as “restructuring” designed to help their respective agencies stay competitive in the fast-changing economy.

Smash, which specializes in broadcast promotion and work for media clients such as cable and broadcast TV networks, appears to have made the deepest cuts, confirming a 50- to 60-percent staff reduction. Boston-based Smash employs about 25 people, but that will soon be reduced to 7-10, according to Smash executives.

“The economy is becoming soft and advertisers are spending less,” noted Mark Tomizawa, president of Smash. “We’re offering the same services, but there will be more flexibility for clients,” said Tomizawa. The cuts at Smash will likely affect all agency departments.

Mintz & Hoke, Avon, Conn., let five employees go, including media director Bill Greer and creative director Don Carter. Carter joined Adams & Knight Advertising. (See page 9.)

Mintz & Hoke now has 78 employees and still rank among the state’s largest shops.

“We’re growing in certain areas and are flatter in other areas,” said Mintz & Hoke spokesman Tom Bradley. “We had a profitable year, but it wasn’t what we had projected. There were three or four pieces of new business that we won that didn’t turn out to be the size we thought they’d be.”

Leo Burnett Technology Group was forced to layoff as many as 15 people, perhaps 25 percent of its Boston office, sources said. [Adweek, Jan. 15].

“The question is whether or not these layoffs will continue. I don’t think we’re going to see a whole lot of layoffs, like in the early-90’s,” said Bill Montbleau, who heads consulting firm Montbleau Associates, Burlington, Mass.