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Op-Ed: Agency Downsizing. The Silent Victims. By Steve Landsberg

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Agency downsizing. The silent victims.
By Steve Landsberg – a founding partner of Grok.

Seems all the big agencies are getting smaller. Though some still attempt to spin layoffs as opportunities to cut fat, everyone knows they’ve cut the fat, cut the muscle and are scraping bone.
Big agencies pay big rents, big salaries and big T & E expenses. But they still have to pay a big cut to their big parent company, come hell or high water.

Welcome to high tide in hell.

Besides former employees, there’s another important group of people who suffer from the effects of agency layoffs. The big agencies don’t often discuss them in public. It’s not good for business. You could call them the silent victims of agency layoffs.

Clients.

If I were a client, I’d wonder how my big agency justifies charging a premium for services and resources while at the same time cutting back on services and resources.

Fewer and fewer people are doing more and more and they are stretched to a breaking point. Yet, the biggest complaint isn’t about longer hours, it’s about keeping up the quality of work in an environment that’s all about getting it done, making the meeting, living to fight another day and surviving the internal politics that occur when fear and self-survival skills outweigh the quaint notion of talent.

If I were a client, I’d also wonder whether my business is really getting the senior talent and attention it deserves.

Unless a client’s business is among the agency’s top 5, the answer is probably no. Can a big agency’s dwindling supply of top talent devote enough attention to the 7th, 15th or 20th largest account?
Do those accounts get the A-team or the B-team?

What’s the answer? Smarter, more efficient big agencies? Maybe. But, if I were a client, I’d ask whether I really need a big agency in the first place. More and more clients are quietly looking outside the typical big agency box and finding interesting alternatives. Never have more talented and experienced people been out on the street. And they’re not all are just waiting to get another big agency job.

They are starting new firms and creating new models of collaboration and integration. They are nimble, scrappy and focused on solving client business problems without the usual politics, silos and bureaucracy. They can work faster, better and offer much better value. And ironically, it can take less time to assemble a customized, multi-disciplined team outside the big agency model than within it.

An old industry saying goes: Clients get the work they deserve.
The new industry saying goes: Clients get the agency they deserve.

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