Devastating advertising layoff figures and Tesla escalates lockdown row: Monday Wake-Up Call
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Good morning, and as we head into another week of pandemic uncertainty, Ad Age’s Datacenter reveals the devastating effects of the coronavirus lockdown on our industry, with news that employment in advertising, public relations and related services fell by 36,400 jobs in April.
As part of a 30-year analysis of advertising job stats in Ad Age's annual Agency Report, out today, Datacenter's Bradley Johnson reports that, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures released May 8, the tally of “advertising, public relations and related services” employment tumbled 7.5 percent in April to 451,100 jobs. Those figures include ad agencies, PR agencies and related services such as media buying, media reps, outdoor advertising, direct mail and other services related to advertising.
What's more, it could be a long time before the industry recovers as we head into recession. Looking back at previous recessions, Johnson notes that “in the 2001 downturn, agency staffing peaked (in the irrational ad exuberance of the dot-com bubble) seven months before the recession began and bottomed out 26 months after the recession ended.”
If the above were not grim enough reading for your Monday morning, our Agency Report also reveals that last year wasn’t all that rosy either. Agency revenue grew just 1.2 percent in 2019—the weakest year for growth since the Great Recession. And, guess what, all bets are off for 2020.
Aside from that, other significant changes in 2019 included the growth of the consultancies. Accenture Interactive, which in 2019 bought creative standout Droga5, displaced Interpublic Group of Cos. as the world’s fourth-largest agency company. And consulting rivals Deloitte Digital, PwC Digital Services and IBM iX all rank in the top 10.
Other findings: digital revenue for agencies from all disciplines increased 3.4 percent, the slowest growth since 2009. But U.S. health care revenue for agencies grew a robust 7.3 percent, the biggest gain of any discipline. Ad Age Datacenter subscribers can access the report here.
Tesla’s Elon Musk has been getting typically spiky on Twitter recently, and over the weekend things escalated, with the outspoken CEO lashing out at the California county blocking the company from reopening its only U.S. car factory.
As reported by Bloomberg News, Musk is threatening to relocate his Fremont plant to other states, such as Texas or Nevada, after tweeting that he would sue Alameda County. Hours later he did indeed file a suit in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, claiming the county’s health order violates due process and “puts businesses deemed critical to the nation’s well-being by the federal and state governments between a rock and a hard place.” He also said Tesla will decide whether to keep producing cars in California based on how it’s treated going forward.
While Musk may be a maverick, he’s been the tech sector’s loudest voice advocating for the reopening of the economy—and observers are now wondering which other businesses may follow his lead.
This weekend also saw the death of rock legend Little Richard, who passed away at the age of 87. Ad Age’s Garett Sloane took a look back at his career in advertising, pointing out that “part of his legacy beyond music was his undeniable charisma as a corporate promoter.”
The “Tutti Frutti” singer starred in commercials for some of the biggest brands, including Geico, Taco Bell, Sprint, Nike, McDonald's, Lipton and Revlon. One of the most memorable was the Nike commercial he made with Michael Jordan in 1991, directed by Spike Lee. Little Richard played “the genie of the lamp,” granting wishes to Lee's famous character Mars Blackmon.
There was also a starring role in a 2006 Geico ad, with Little Richard playing a customer who tells the story of a Thanksgiving accident. The ad was made by The Martin Agency, whose Senior VP and Group Creative Director Steve Bassett recalled this weekend: “Little Richard never missed a line or a beat, and he kept the atmosphere positive.”
Mickey in a mask: Shanghai Disneyland has reopened today for the first time since January. However, as reported by CNN, visitors are required to wear masks, have their temperature taken and observe social distancing. And on opening day, cast members far outnumbered the guests.
Mother’s Day, pandemic style: Given the lockdown and lack of parental visiting, Mother’s Day advertising had to look a little different this year. Microsoft delivered a spot promoting its Teams conferencing platform that gave a shoutout to the millions of working moms who are WFH with their kids in the time of coronavirus. Ad Age Creativity Editor Ann-Christine Diaz writes: “As female leaders conduct their meetings, their little ones sneak up from behind, rest their heads on Mama’s shoulder, brush her hair, brandish swords in the background, scream or just yank Mom away from the computer altogether.” Might sound familiar to many.
Toasting the class of 2020: Graduation is another celebratory occasion that won’t be happening traditionally in 2020. However, Ad Age’s Ilyse Liffreing writes, “brands such as Chase, Natural Light and Doritos, along with platforms like Facebook, Instagram and iHeartMedia, have stepped up to help fill the void by throwing virtual graduation celebrations.” These online events will feature some all-star power; Oprah Winfrey will speak at the Facebook and Instagram event, while Barack Obama will deliver the address for education advocacy group XQ Institute, The LeBron James Family Foundation and The Entertainment Industry Foundation.
Jeff Bezo$: Web developer Matt Korostoff created an astonishing visualization of Jeff Bezos’ wealth that’s been going viral on Twitter. As Ad Age’s Simon Dumenco writes, “Korostoff figured out a way to make something rather incomprehensible—the real scale of billions and billions of dollars—exhaustingly comprehensible through the physical activity of scrolling.” And, he says, there will be a lot of scrolling.
That does it for today’s Wake-Up Call. Thanks for reading and we hope you are all staying safe and well. For more industry news and insight, follow us on Twitter: @adage.
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