Just before the holiday weekend, GSD&M laid off three Group Creative Directors, Rick Tlapek, Derek Pletch and Scott MacGregor.
Traditionally GSD&M has always had two GCDs per creative group, leading the teams. For this reorganization, the top-heavy creative department has been trimmed to just one GCD per group. MacGregor and Pletch lead a team together, so someone will likely be bumped up or transitioned from another GCD team to lead in their stead.
This news comes on the heels of GSD&M’s promotion of GCDs Luke Sullivan and David Crawford to Managing Group Creative Director roles, and Greg Lane to Managing Director, Creative. We broke that news September 1, and just three days later Tlapek, MacGregor and Pletch were let go (presumably by their just-promoted counterparts who likely would have had no idea the move was coming).
Hypotheses are stirring as to why these three were singled out: Tlapek for one, according to a source, was known to be “critical when he thought the agency’s work was lagging.” One source notes Tlapek wasn’t a huge fan of Sullivan’s, though he was respected in the creative department.
MacGregor and Pletch always had the botched Southwest Airlines work looming over them. But what creative team doesn’t have some bad work now and then?
The firings were handled differently than in the past: what once was an agency that afforded senior employees with (in one case) a few months notice is now like most others. For example, we’re told that as each man was called in HR was cutting his phone and email. It’s a bit cold for GSD&M — especially considering Tlapek won one of the shop’s only Lions. Keep in mind that in late July the agency promoted Duff Stewart to CEO, a position previously held by owner/founder Roy Spence.
Though Tlapek was the most respected among the trio, a source tells us their departures could have been handled a bit more delicately. But in this age of no-nonsense advertising, the gentle break-up method is increasingly rare. It’s business.
GSD&M was not immediately available for comment.
Update: After speaking with another source familiar with this matter, we’ve learned that a total of six creatives were let go. A designer was made redundant after the design group was split up and dispersed among the shop’s three business units. The other two were a junior creative team.
We’re told three new junior creative teams are in the process of being hired. This switch marks another step toward revamping the shop’s structure, which as we’ve noted has been bloated at the top. The setup prevented young blood from making it all the way up, and presumably the new methodology will keep the talent flowing.
More: “GSD&M Elevates Luke Sullivan, David Crawford, Greg Lane to Lead Creative Dept.”