McGarrah Jessee Cuts 5% of Staff Despite Hiring ECD and Others

By Erik Oster 

McGarrah Jessee went through a round of staffing reductions in response to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on client business.

The independent agency in Austin, Texas, parted with around 5% of employees, according to a source with direct knowledge of the shop.

McGarrah Jessee characterized the reduction as part of a restructuring to align with changing client needs during an “unprecedented time.”


In contrast to many other agencies, McGarrah Jessee has not implemented a hiring freeze as a cost-cutting measure and claims the impact of the layoffs will be a 3% net reduction in the size of the shop once new hires are finalized over the course of the next month. Executive creative director Corel Theuma is among the new hires joining McGarah Jessee.

“We’re fortunate to have strong client relationships—both with our newest clients like Lyft and GameStop as well as in our 15-plus year partnerships with brands like Whataburger and Frost Bank—and that has given us the predictability necessary to absorb the ebb and flow of client scopes while holding on to our talent. As a result, we’ve enjoyed high employee retention and a turnover rate that’s consistently half the industry average,” McGarah Jessee marketing director Heather Snow said in a statement.

“The current situation is unprecedented. We don’t know what lies ahead—nobody does. And we are investing in providing a deeper level of partnership to our clients during this time of need and uncertainty. So we’ve done some restructuring of teams and departments,” she added. “We’ve let some staff go and in other areas we’re bringing on new hires. The net is a 3% reduction.”

In his new role, Theuma will partner with head of design Aimee Roberge and head of experience Jeremy Cox, while also working closely with Claire Whigham, who joined McGarrah Jessee from 72andSunny as CCO last November.

“We are extremely excited to have Corel joining our leadership team. His integrated background, collaborative style and enthusiasm for the work fit right in with our culture,” Whigham said in a statement. “The work ethic he puts forth is second to none, and he is already making an impact on the growth of our people. He’s the first Maltese New Yorker I’ve met, but he’s already my favorite.”

Theuma most recently served a short stint as executive creative director at StrawberryFrog. Before that he spent over two years as a group creative director at R/GA, working with brands including Ally Bank, Bubly, Jim Beam, LifeWTR and Verizon.