How One Agency Is Doing More for Jobless

Toronto Shop Assembling Teams of Freelancers for Just One Project

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- After seeing advertising job losses mount in its home city of Toronto, an independent agency is trying to mitigate the devastating effects of the recession in Adland.

In late January, Huxley Quayle von Bismark, a 1-year old Canadian agency with a staff of 10, launched an initiative to bring new business to recently laid-off advertising professionals. The effort, called Just One Project, invites major advertisers to give "just one project" to a freelance staff assembled by the agency.

HQVB partner Andy Shortt said the company has been flooded with e-mails, portfolios and résumés since the recession hit Canada in late November. At first it was disheartening. "As much as we would have liked to hire everybody ourselves, we couldn't," he said. But then Mr. Shortt and his partners started to think about the possibility of doing exactly that through Just One Project.

"You can't be an industry leader if you don't care about what happens to the people who make up the industry," Mr. Shortt said. If his agency could help keep out-of-work ad people afloat for a month or two on a project, he was all for it.

Hundreds of résumés
In the few weeks since Justoneproject.ca went live, more than 300 laid-off professionals have responded, and two national media companies have offered special deals for advertisers that assign projects to the initiative, Mr. Shortt said. Aegis Group's Genesis Vizeum is also working with HQVB to negotiate media buying for the project.

Assignments through Just One Project are intended to be in the $15,000 to $20,000 range, just enough for freelancers to have some livelihood and not be a threat to ad agencies with multimillion-dollar accounts. HQVB will charge about $125 per hour: $100 per hour for the freelancers and $25 per hour to cover its in-house costs.

For the most part, Mr. Shortt has received kudos from agencies around the world. Closer to home, some agencies have argued that the project is undercutting general-market fees.

"The goal here is not to deprive other people of work," Mr. Shortt said, noting that Just One Project seeks work that is small and that the initiative has turned down at least one advertiser's request to bid.

HQVB is sorting through résumés for its first project, the launch of ConnectInPrivate.com, a secure online network for file sharing. It expects to announce the creative team this week.

While Mr. Shortt said he and his business partners, Chris Hall and Mark Tawse-Smith, are trying to help out those in need, he added, "We believe that if you do good things, good things happen to you."

HQVB has worked with Travel Alberta International; the Ontario Art of College & Design; Toronto Community Foundation; and Vincor Canada, part of Constellation Brands.

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