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Ad Jobs (Kind of) Return

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Agencies are back—back in terms of marketers investing in their brands, that is. As for agencies investing in their staffs? Not as much.

With many U.S. marketers banking record profits, industry holding companies are reporting year-end numbers that recall prerecessionary times. Omnicom and Publicis Groupe, for example, recently announced 2010 revenue increases of 7 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Further proof: Stocks in holding companies have been trading at near or new 52-week highs.

Last fall, WPP CEO Martin Sorrell boasted at the World Retail Congress in Berlin that WPP's “revenues have pretty much got back to where we were in 2008, including TNS, but with 8 percent fewer people”.

Amy Hoover, a partner at Atlanta-based recruiters Talent Zoo, said, “Traditional agencies saw a big uptick in hiring in the fourth quarter, [but] they have a lot more ground to make up.” (According to the U.S.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, advertising and related services shed 60,400 jobs from the beginning of January 2008 through 2010, a loss of 11 percent.)

“In three to five years, though,” Hoover continued, “I think we’ll see that some of the recent industry contraction turns out to be permanent.”

Digital agencies, she added, are “back on track” with staffing.

Indeed, the shift in the industry toward digital explains part of the seeming disconnect, as digital shops don’t require the same kind of manpower at the agency level.

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