Digital Staffs Brace for Bad Times

NEW YORK Digital media departments — long struggling with a shortage of experienced talent — are bracing for the possibility of layoffs and/or hiring freezes as the economic downturn persists. Yet buyers say the sector is better prepared to handle staffing reductions than just a few years ago.

On Oct. 31, Razorfish laid off close to 40 staffers. However, according to Sarah Baehr, vp, North America, national media discipline lead, the digital media department was untouched and is actually looking to fill several positions. (Related: “The Squeeze Is On as Agencies Cut Budgets.”)

Baehr said that unlike the years following the dot.com fallout — when junior staff members were often promoted quickly and turnover was a persistent problem — now she believes the talent situation has stabilized. “Plus, many of the tools we’ve added [in recent years] have allowed us to be a lot more streamlined,” she said.

One major difference between this recessionary period and the last, said Greg March, digital group director, Wieden + Kennedy, is that online ad spending is being driven mostly by established brands rather than “farcical companies with no business models.”

March added that since the economic downturn hit, his agency has actually been able to hire a greater amount of quality talent, as experienced buyers have shown an increased willingness to change jobs.