‘Thinking it could happen to you is really scary’: Confessions of a young ad agency staffer on layoffs plaguing the industry

With so many clients moving their marketing in-house and attracting agency employees in the process, cutbacks at agencies have become common.

In the latest in our Confessions series, where we exchange anonymity for candor, Digiday spoke with a young account executive at an ad agency about how departures and layoffs have impacted morale.

What is a source of stress at your agency right now?
There have been a handful of layoffs at our company in the past year and some shifting of teams, and I saw a lot of my friends leave the agency, either because they saw the writing on the wall and found a new job or their position wasn’t there anymore. It’s hard to watch a company go through a tough time with people getting laid off. Thinking it could happen to you is really scary. It’s a lot of pressure.

Why is this happening?
In-housing is a threat we are feeling as a whole. It’s also competition in general. Clients are looking for who can do it the cheapest. My agency has been very transparent about the layoffs which everyone really appreciates. They tell us we’ve lost X, Y and Z clients and gives us an explanation about why and which roles they needed to cut.

How are people at your agency responding to these layoffs and departures?
It’s definitely a little trying right now, but we’re doing what we can to keep the culture positive. Everyone knows what is going on and talks about it. We’re scaling back a little more on cultural events. When that budget goes down, morale is a little lower. People come to expect the same things every year, and when something changes, people talk about it.

How’s the pay?
I’m getting paid $50,000, a little more fairly than at my old agency. The last agency I was at took way too much advantage of young people and paid them nothing. They turned and burned over there. For an entry-level job, it was a salary of $30,000 and they thought they were being fair by paying everyone the same, even if other people had a higher job title than you. That was a problem. I was there for a year, sometimes as early as 6 a.m. and out at 7 p.m. I know some people elsewhere are making more, and I think there’s room to be making more, especially because I live in a big city. My one comfort with all the layoffs is that it probably won’t happen to me because of my low salary.

Why not go in-house?
I like the variety of working at an agency. I’m not going to say that I won’t ever want to work at a consultancy or in-house, but right now I’m happy.


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