Ad industry rallies to pair laid-off workers with jobs as unemployment rates surge
When Amber Revoir, a senior recruiter at Portland-based agency Swift, was laid off a few weeks ago, she wanted to do her part to help others in her situation. So she created an online referral list to link people searching for work in advertising and marketing with available jobs.
What started as a Portland-area project quickly gained national traction. Her public Google Sheet now has more than 650 names of people looking for work across job levels and disciplines, complete with links to their LinkedIn profiles and portfolios. A separate tab features companies looking to fill positions.
Revoir’s list is just one example of a number of referral lists, public job boards and virtual networking opportunities being shared online among the marketing and advertising community. They stand as a welcome show of support in an otherwise bleak period.
Due to the prolonged economic strain of the coronavirus pandemic, the industry has been wrought with layoffs, hiring freezes and pay cuts from companies struggling to keep afloat. Yet, there are still plenty of open positions, and the marketing community is stepping up to spread the word and help those searching for work land on their feet.
“I believe people find comfort in knowing that there are opportunities out there, that they are being seen and their work is getting exposure,” says Revoir.
A number of other referral lists are making their way online, hoping that the talent presented in their cells lands in front of people who are hiring.
“People want to help and there’s this sense of community and caring, and you even see it from marketers,” says Kristian Schwartz, founder and partner of recruiting firm The Montgomery Group. “Where before, if you were laid off there was a perception that there was something wrong with you. Now it’s an acknowledgment that there are ups and downs.”
When Hilton announced it was furloughing employees towards the end of March, executives at the hotel chain began sharing with recruiters a list of marketers who were placed on leave (it’s unclear who began the list).
Freelance art director Aimee Brodbeck, copywriter Jeff Barry and producer Jess Ambrose created “The Avail List,” which spotlights ad talent, both freelance and full-time, ranging across account managers, creative, photography, production, digital, recruiting and strategy. It also stores resources for those looking for work.
Many emerging lists are focused on highlighting freelance talent, a segment of workers that has been hit hard. Freelance creative Andrew Cardenas built WFH Freelancer, an online list of art and copy freelancers affected by COVID-19—already 500 strong—along with resources they can turn to. He says he plans on partnering with recruiters to pass along “little black books” of available freelancers.
Yes, there are open jobs
The One Club, known for its awards program, created an online jobs board where companies can submit their open marketing and advertising positions. Since the resource was posted on March 30, at least 120 companies have listed more than 300 vacancies.
The posted jobs span a broad range of skills, expertise, locations and companies, including: independent creative agencies like Bakery Agency and Grow; holding company agencies like Grey and Havas, media agencies like MediaMonks and Just Media; public relations agencies like Edelman and Weber Shandwick; studios like Jam3 and Little Red Robot, media outlets like CNN; and brands such as Spotify, Target and Electronic Arts.
Interpublic’s FCB has the most posts, currently seeking to fill 25 open positions, such as Senior Strategic Planner, mid-level Social Manager and junior Digital Creative Director. Spotify has posted 12 available jobs, including Product Manager and Studios Marketing Lead. Independent agency Tombras has nine posts, including Associate Creative Director and Digital Media Planner. And Jam3 has seven, like Front End Developer and Senior Designer.
“The outpouring has been incredible,” says One Club CEO Kevin Swanepoel. “We’re all in this together. I’m a firm believer that we can help [people] find jobs, they just have to hang in there.”
Candor, an online resource for negotiating salaries in the tech industry, is keeping a user-generated list of companies (including agencies, brands and media outlets) that are hiring, placing hiring freezes or conducting layoffs. David Chouinard, co-founder of Candor, says more than 500,000 people have used the list, which is seeing one submission every minute. The company has added the ability to upload resumes so job seekers can now be contacted by recruiters.
“We've been overwhelmed emotionally to see how many people are taking their time to find and promote companies still hiring,” says Chouinard. “We're trying to do our part to redirect resources from struggling industries to those that can hire those affected.”
Executives and recruiters have also taken to LinkedIn more aggressively to post about openings at their respective companies. Jackson Jeyanayagam, vice president and general manager direct-to-consumer at The Clorox Company, for instance, has been posting about several marketing positions at Clorox, a company that is still doing well right now, unsurprisingly. LinkedIn employees are also giving away six-month LinkedIn Premium subscriptions.
Cocktail hour is now virtual
It’s likely that your next networking cocktail hour will take place on a videoconferencing site like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Freelance senior copywriter Sai He (@dongtent on Twitter) launched a “(Net)working From Home” initiative from his Twitter account in March. The first round drew 1,300 ad agency professionals looking to connect with each other, and the second round is underway. He and 25 volunteers are making introductions, “pairing art directors with copywriters, and strategists in London with strategists in Jakarta,” he says.
“The ad industry is so small that we’re no more than a few degrees from anyone else. There’s no telling who the person you’re introduced to may know, so I encourage participants to keep an open mind and embrace the unexpected,” says He. “While job opportunities may not present themselves right now, the connections you nurture will absolutely pay off down the line.”
On Wednesday, the One Club turned its annual Young Ones Student Portfolio Review program into a free virtual program, where graduating students can upload their portfolios online and get feedback from reviewers like Burger King’s Global Chief Marketing Officer Fernando Machado and Glenn Cole, chief creative officer of 72andSunny.
State of the industry
The April 3 jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was brutal: U.S. employment tumbled by 701,000 jobs in March as the unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent, from 3.5 percent. That’s the biggest one-month job drop since March 2009, towards the end of the Great Recession. More than 16.8 million Americans have filed for unemployment, or 10 percent of the U.S. workforce, reported the Associated Press on Thursday.
The impact of the pandemic on ad industry jobs has been limited so far: Advertising, public relations and related services staffing fell by 3,800 to 488,100 in March, a decline of 0.8 percent, according to BLS data. But, due to the timing of data collection, the employment report doesn’t fully capture U.S. job cuts made last month. The April jobs report (coming May 8) will offer a clearer, undoubtedly grimmer picture of the economic impact.
Advertising employment was strong on the eve of the pandemic, with U.S. ad agencies recording 207,700 employees in February, approaching an all-time high. But February is a distant memory now.
So far, only a handful of agencies have come forward confirming layoffs. Interpublic's MullenLowe laid off 10 percent of staff, MDC's Anomaly confirmed it cut 22 employees, independent agency Giant Spoon laid off 20 percent of its workforce and MediaMath has cut 8 percent of staff.
On anonymous app Fishbowl, individuals at ad agencies are expressing concerns that layoffs are on the horizon. “I’m still employed but sensing I’m about to be laid off…is it wrong if I start interviewing?” wrote an assistant account executive. To which a global chief creative officer and VP replied: “Rest assured, layoffs and cut backs are coming. If you are underperformed, have HR issues, get paid too much [in their eyes] and do too little [again in their eyes]…Your name is already on a list. Don’t buy anything big.”
It's been a different story on the brands side, where companies like Yelp, Sephora, Under Armour, Groupon, The Wing, ClassPass and travel brands across the board have undergone mass layoffs. That said, the majority of these are workers on the front lines and it’s unclear how severely marketing departments have been affected.
Light at the end of the tunnel
The general consensus is that the industry will bounce back from layoffs and lost client work during this time. Many executives within holding companies, agencies and brands have taken pay cuts to starve off layoffs and are working on ways to engage their employees working from home.
Horizon Media CEO Bill Koenigsberg believes the current work-from-home environment will open up possibilities for recruitment down the line.
“I no longer have to look in my own backyard where major hubs are—New York, L.A. and a couple of places here in the U.S.,” Koenigsberg said recently on “Ad Age Remotely,” “I can hire from anywhere, which opens up the talent pool opportunity.”
Contributing: Brad Johnson, Lindsay Rittenhouse