Doner Lays Off More Than 100 Staffers

CEO Cites Economic Downturn, Increased Focus on Digital Media

By Published on .

CHICAGO ( -- Doner is the latest ad agency to undergo major staff cuts amid the economic downturn.

The Southfield, Mich.-based independent shop laid off more than 100 people this week, about 12% of staff, according to CEO Alan Kalter, who described the moves as both a response to client cutbacks and a thorough review of the agency's structure in light of the ascension of digital media.

"We've been evaluating the business, trying to understand this dramatic shift from old media to new media, and how best to balance our staff to reflect that," said Mr. Kalter. He said digital now trails only TV among the agency's sources of revenue. "The business really hasn't changed much since 'Mad Men,' and there really hasn't been an upside-down look at the business to understand what's the right structure looking forward."

Warning sign
Cuts came from across the agency, and they included what Mr. Kalter described as a large group of media buyers who worked from home and a number of nondigital creatives.

Mr. Kalter had given agency staff a heads up that cuts were coming in an internal memo that went out April 9. In that note, he noted that the privately held agency had resisted making cuts to that point, in the hopes of a quicker recovery.

"What we're seeing is not a recovery but a total reset," he wrote. "We are working as carefully as possible to strike that delicate balance of agility and strength to transition to the yet-to-arrive new 'normal.'"

Bounce back
Doner has had its share of troubles in recent years, particularly in 2007, when it lost a string of clients including, Blockbuster, La-Z-Boy, Outback Steakhouse, Six Flags and Sylvan Learning Centers.

The shop showed some signs of bouncing back last year, picking up accounts from Pennzoil, Ideacast and Amazon and managing to attract former Crispin Porter & Bogusky executive Rob Strasberg as its chief creative officer, but it wasn't enough to keep Doner from losing its spot as the largest U.S. independent agency to Richards Group.

That it lost hold of its key, Expedia, client isn't a good sign, either. Last month, the travel site launched a review of its $60 million creative advertising account; Ark Advisors in New York is managing that search, which is expected to conclude this summer.

Most Popular