3% Staff Cut at Hill, Holliday

BOSTON Hill, Holliday, like many of its recession-rocked peers, has cut staff in an effort to control costs and stay competitive.

A representative at the Interpublic Group agency here said it trimmed 14 employees — about 3 percent of its staff — late last week “as part of a belt-tightening effort for 2009.” The agency still employs more than 400 people at its headquarters in Boston. This is the shop’s second reduction in recent months, following a layoff of 20-plus staffers last December. No additional cuts are planned going forward.

The rep said: “It’s a challenging year for agencies in general but we are committed to running our business with a sharp focus on fiscal management. We will continue to make strategic hires through the year and currently have 10 open positions in Boston and 10 more split between the New York and Greenville, S.C., offices.”

Hill, Holliday has been among the New England region’s best performers of late, enjoying an estimated 16 percent revenue rise last year to $260 million. The shop in ’08 added several new assignments and enjoyed spending boosts from large existing accounts such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Liberty Mutual and Version — though momentum in recent months has slowed.

The firm is far from alone, as agencies of all sizes and specialties have cut back since the economy began its downturn in earnest last fall. In fact, Hill, Holliday’s Boston-area competitors have been among those hit hard.

Havas’ Arnold, Boston, in March slashed 40 staffers (7 percent of its workforce) and instituted across-the-board paycuts for those that remained. The move followed a similar-size layoff at Arnold in October. Mullen — in the midst of relocating to Boston from Wenham, Mass. — cut 40 employees that same month after trimming 30 from its payroll last November.

Last week, BBDO in Atlanta and GSD&M Idea City in Austin, Texas, both units of Omnicom Group, made staff cuts. The latter, like Arnold, also reduced salaries.

These newly unemployed, said recruiters, will need to adjust their expectations in terms of accepting lower compensation and less impressive job titles if they’re lucky enough to fine work in the ad business at all.