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The New Reality Facing Job Seekers

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NEW YORK Last week was one of the bleakest in the current economic crisis for the ad industry. In just a matter of days, agencies nationwide made significant reductions to their workforces.

McCann Worldgroup S.F. confirmed it cut 5 percent of its staff, or 40 jobs; BBDO, 10 percent, or 50 positions, at its Troy, Mich., office; PHD is thought to have cut 15 percent of its staff, or 30 staffers; Enfatico, 8 percent or 80-100 people; and The Martin Agency shed 5 percent, or 24 positions. This followed Crispin Porter + Bogusky's layoff of 60 staffers last month, slightly less than 7 percent of its agency, and the Ogilvy Group's cutting of approximately 150 positions, or 10 percent, in January.

These newly unemployed, said recruiters, will need to adjust their expectations to new industry realities -- especially those with traditional backgrounds.

"You can expect a cut in title and pay," said Amy Hoover, an evp at the industry's largest recruitment firm, Talent Zoo. "You're lucky if you can make a lateral move."

Hoover, in fact, said there's been a 5-10 percent decrease in salaries in traditional agencies. But while candidates may have little negotiating clout, she said, they should try for perks like extra vacation time.

And anecdotal evidence suggests that senior execs, even those in demand, know they have less negotiating power for bonuses.

Still, Hoover warned against looking too desperate. Candidates who are willing to take, say, a 35 percent pay cut and a junior-level title may not get the job because they're overqualified, and if they do get it, may not be considered for a more appropriate senior role when it becomes available because the job seeker has devalued his or her credentials.

Because money is still flowing into budgets for online advertising, salaries in that field have remained pretty stable, and hiring is strong relative to traditional shops. (Other specialty niches like retail are also strong, as marketers focus more on point-of-sale in tough times.)

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