Agency Brief: Coronavirus causes Anomaly layoffs
There are several posts on Fishbowl saying that certain unnamed agencies are not allowing employees to work from home in areas affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Yet most holding companies say they have restricted travel and that employees have the option to work from home even if agency offices remain open. A Publicis spokesperson says the company is “encouraging employees to work from home … We are continuously monitoring the COVID-19 virus situation and in addition to the increased measures we are taking to ensure the safety of our employees, we remain in alignment with the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as advice from local authorities in our respective markets."
IPG also says it is “encouraging our employees in markets where the COVID-19 virus is spreading, notably in North America and several European markets, who can work from home to do so” and has planned for “staggered work schedules to reduce the density of our in-office populations.” As of last week, an MDC spokesperson says it put “in place certain controls to protect our colleagues, clients, families and communities, including travel restrictions and work-from-home programs in line with the latest local government recommendations.” WPP’s offices remain open, but the company has told employees if they have any concerns, they can work from home.
Omnicom, meanwhile, says it has restricted travel as well as attendance at meetings, events and conferences. The holding company says it will stagger its employees’ schedules over the next two weeks so that offices will have only a 50 percent headcount on any given day. Omnicom says its agencies are also alternating employees' schedules to balance working from home and in the office.
Anomaly undergoes layoffs
As the coronavirus pandemic causes cancellations, quarantines and shutdowns across the world, many brands have put their marketing efforts on pause. This has already started having an impact on agencies. Anomaly Founding Partner and Executive Chairman Carl Johnson confirms that the MDC agency laid off 22 employees on Thursday due to the pandemic and said that “most” executives in its New York office have taken a temporary 10 percent pay cut.
“Anyone who can read, listen or watch the news knows that we are in extraordinary times—as are our clients and the economy,” Johnson says. “No one is immune from the impact and consequently in response to a tough business context caused by the coronavirus directly impacting our clients, we have had to let a number of people go—22. In addition most people in the New York office have taken a temporary 10 percent pay cut including founding partners, partners, department heads and all group leaders.”
He adds, “It sucks, but being naive or in denial would suck more. As you’d expect from a decent company we have ensured anyone leaving will have six months' healthcare.”
Agencies rally around Austin businesses after SXSW shutdown
SXSW is a major source of revenue for Austin, Texas; each year the tech, music and film festival brings some 400,000 visitors to the city over a 10-day time period. Last year SXSW brought $355.9 million to the city, so the cancellation of this year’s event is surely going to have a significant impact on the local economy. SXSW itself had to cut staff due to the financial impact of canceling and will not issue refunds to 2020 ticket holders—instead those who purchased tickets have the option of attending SXSW in 2021, 2022 or 2023.
There are ways to help revive Austin’s economy during this time and local agencies including T3 and GSD&M are doing their part to support the efforts. T3 says it started a GoFundMe page for music venues, bars, restaurants and hotels in Austin to help them recover some of the wages and tips they lost from the festival’s “last-minute cancellation.” The GoFundMe page, named #SouthBySouthBest, hit its original goal of $5,000 in donations in less than 24 hours and generated over $8,000 as of Friday afternoon. GSD&M is helping promote the “Stand With Austin” fund, created by the Austin Community Foundation and Entrepreneurs Foundation, which supports nonprofits that are assisting individuals and small businesses negatively affected by the cancellation of SXSW.
Recent moves, promotions and hires
Denver-based Cactus hired Jeff Graham as president and chief marketing officer beginning March 30. Graham hails from Barkley, where he was a senior VP and managing director. Before Barkley, he co-founded the Boulder-based creative agency Grenadier. Graham will oversee day-to-day operations and direct business development for Cactus in his new role.
Creative communications agency Praytell, part of Project Worldwide, promoted partner Beth Cleveland to global president. Cleveland has been with the agency since its founding in 2013. In this new role, she will expand the agency’s growth and operations internationally as well as focus on improving internal processes and staff development. Cleveland first joined Praytell after running her own PR firm, Elm.
Brett Bergeron joined Work & Co as a design director. Bergeron founded and served as a creative director for This Also, a product innovation studio that was bought by MDC’s Instrument in March 2019. He became executive strategy director at Instrument following the acquisition but left in January. Bergeron also previously served as a design lead at Google and IPG’s Huge.
Digital agency Organic appointed Laurel Rossi as its first chief partnerships officer. In the new role, Rossi will lead new business and agency marketing across the U.S., working closely with CEO Cathy Butler. Rossi joined Organic from OMD, where she was chief marketing officer. She also co-founded Creative Spirit, a global organization that aims to create employment opportunities for neurodiverse individuals.
Ogilvy Miami named Luciano D’Amelio creative VP, appointed Sasha García as digital director, and promoted Alan Ehrenhaus as head of operations. D’Amelio spent the last three years as a lead creative for Ogilvy in Mexico, working with brands like Volkswagen, McDonald’s, Walmart, KFC, Coca-Cola and Chrysler. García most recently worked for Rabinovici & Associates and with brands like M&Ms, Snickers, Visa, Lens Crafters, Pepsi, Cisco and Scotiabank. Ehrenhaus began his career at Ogilvy Argentina and has most recently been a group business lead for Ogilvy Miami.
Stadiumred Group, a new agency collective comprised of shops like Creative Riff and MagicBullet Media, appointed Debbie Kaplan as its first chief strategy officer and George Bennett as its first chief growth officer. Kaplan is tasked in part with finding synergies across the network’s portfolio of agencies. Bennett will help expand Stadiumred’s talent, client roster and agency partners. They will both be based in New York and report to Stadiumred Group Founder-CEO Claude Zdanow.