In Face of Hart Tragedy, Adland Proves It Still Has a Heart

Industry Rallies Around Y&R Following Tragic Death of Suzanne Hart

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A tough economy has over the past few years placed increased pressure on the agency industry to prove its value to clients, and the stress has contributed to an increasingly negative atmosphere in adland that at times has grown downright mean. As Ad Age wrote earlier this year, the vitriolic commentary that is anonymously spewed in the blogosphere has put a dark cloud over the agency business.

But in the face of tragedy, the ad business proved it hasn't lost heart. When news hit of the sudden and all-too-soon death of Suzanne Hart -- a longtime ad executive most recently employed at Y&R -- all of the snarky commentary suddenly evaporated. Rival agencies reached out to WPP-owned shop immediately with phone calls and notes to express their sympathy. An entire industry has rallied in support of Ms. Hart's family, and colleagues at Y&R, where she is said to have logged long hours and, despite the rigors of being a new-business exec, worked with a smile.

Employees at the New York office of Y&R and other WPP shops located there were dismissed for the remainder of the week in order to spend time with their loved ones and regroup. When they return next week, they'll no doubt still be reeling from the loss of their co-worker and friend. While grief counseling has already been offered to staff, surely the most comforting will be the heartfelt messages from friends.

Omnicom Group's TBWA wrote on its Twitter feed: "Our thoughts go out to our neighbors at Y&R on the loss of their colleague, Suzanne Hart, who tragically passed away." Brandon Snow, head of new business at rival DDB, wrote "Hang in there Y&R friends. Hang in there." Former employees, such as Jane Barrat who ran the New York office until recently, sent out her condolences: "A terrible day. Thinking of you all XoX."

"Between my Facebook and Twitter feeds, it was amazing to see how people responded the only way they knew how, which was to offer their support," Nancy Hill, head of the trade group for ad agencies, the 4A's, told Ad Age . "When a tragedy like this strikes, it hits you in the gut because it could be you, or it could be the person next to you."

What affects people at one shop ultimately affects all agencies since talent regularly moves around in the ad business. Said Ms. Hill: "At the end of the day, it is a community, and it's one more proof point that people in this industry do really care."

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