Wieden+Kennedy, the agency with 11 Agency of the Year credits to its name, laid off 11% of its global workforce due to financial impacts from the coronavirus pandemic.
W+K has offices in Portland, New York, Amsterdam, Tokyo, London, Shanghai, Delhi, and Sao Paulo.
Prominent W+K clients include Airbnb, Coca-Cola, Disney, Facebook, Old Spice, Ford, McDonald’s, and KFC.
A Negotiated Settlement
“We negotiated this as long as we could, but W+K and COVID-19 have reached an impasse,” the agency said in a statement.
Negotiated? With whom? The virus?
More from the statement: “How long this will last seems to be anybody’s guess, so we have had to make some hard choices. We are saying goodbye to people that we love; 11% of our network. Some raised their hands to leave, helping to save the jobs of others. Some received bad news graciously. Voluntary or not, everyone was given the softest landing possible. All of them are a loss to us. Any agency that gets them is lucky.”
There’s the old W+K arrogance again (in the last sentence, which is not needed). What if the agency “that gets them” doesn’t need another entitled person or person who has been routinely overworked?
Wieden+Kennedy said that its laid-off employees are receiving four months’ severance pay, on average, which is a soft landing, but even soft landings come to a conclusion when the money runs out. How things go for the ad workers from there will depend on a host of factors. No matter how talented a person is, the market for talent is brutal. Witness:
Every LinkedIn note from a recruiter reads like this to me:
— George Tannenbaum. Good thinking is good writing. (@georget20) July 23, 2020
For what it’s worth, George Tannenbaum has more experience and a better book/reel than 99.99% of the people now working in the ad business.
Slashes de Swoosh
Oregon Public Broadcasting is reporting that Nike also announced the beginning of layoffs, as well as management shifts, related to a larger reorganization of the company.
Nike said it expects to have a “net loss of jobs across the company” resulting in employee termination costs of between $200 million and $250 million. It did not specify the number of employees expected to be laid off.
The announcement comes as part of Nike’s “Consumer Direct Acceleration” plan, what it calls a “digitally empowered phase” of the company’s strategy. In other words, retail is dead, so the company has to successfully pivot to e-commerce. Right now.
The Righteous and The Wicked
View this post on Instagram
That’s some tough talk.
F to the B
Earlier this month, Facebook, a W+K client, faced backlash as some of the world’s largest advertisers are boycotting the platform (some, including Coca-Cola and Ford, are W+K clients). For its part, W+K said it would be “unprofessional” to comment about “the challenges our client faces right now. Suffice it to say, the intense conversations taking place at Menlo Park are taking place at Wieden + Kennedy.”
Heated conversations inside an ad agency. Wow. That’s bound to change things.
Facebook was already a rich and powerful company when W+K walked in the door. My guess is the Menlo Parkers could give two shits what heated convos are happening back at one of their many partners or vendors.
Land of No Return
W+K’s official statement wonders how long “this” will last. What if “it” lasts forever? What if returning to the way things were is fantasy?
COVID-19 is the Hard Reset, but a hard reset is hardest for companies and people who are resistant to change, companies that prefer formulaic answers, and workers who will do anything to get some of that Lion-shine on their book or reel.
Did I just call W+K, formulaic? I did. The very top of the industry is stuck, not just W+K. They are mostly white, male, well off, and well respected in certain circles. What would motivate a person in this position to make radical moves to upgrade and modernize their work and company? A pandemic? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
The reality is change comes in waves. Even the best tagline in modern advertising history—Just Do It—is off-key, today. Just do what? Being your best self is a luxury afforded to some, but certainly not all. People are struggling to stay alive and financially afloat. Nike’s messaging (along with all corporate messaging) has to somehow fit into this new chaos, or break away from it.
It’s a weird world and a strange ad world. Do you think that Dan and Dave could have ever imagined a time when Facebook existed, much less existed as the media industry’s new power player? I can’t believe it now, but I can see that it’s real.