- NEW YORK
The economic squeeze of the coronavirus pandemic has hit the ranks of BBDO New York, which has laid off a significant number of staffers, including two prominent agency veterans--Greg Hahn, chief creative officer, NY, and David Rolfe, EVP, director of integrated production. Hahn had been with the agency for some 15 years, the last seven as NY CCO. Rolfe joined BBDO NY in 2012.
Hahn and Rolfe had a major hand in much of the agency’s most lauded work. Just this past Tuesday, BBDO NY scored 89 shortlisted entries in One Show 2020, the second highest total this year for any agency. That BBDO tally included 23 for Monica Lewinsky’s anti-bullying campaign film The Epidemic--a piece of breakthrough interactive work for which Hahn and Rolfe were key contributors. Their stamp has been on notable fare over the years for clients such as HBO, Bacardi, FedEx, AT&T, GE and Macy’s, among others.
Prior to his BBDO tenure, Rolfe was director of integrated production at Crispin Porter+Bogusky where he also had an award-winning pedigree spanning such clients as BMW Mini, IKEA, McDonald’s, Anheuser-Bush, Volkswagen, Microsoft, Domino’s, Best Buy, Kraft, Old Navy, Coke and American Legacy/Truth.
While the layoffs of such marquee talent as Hahn and Rolfe came as a surprise to many, furloughs and staff reductions were expected at Omnicom Group shops, including BBDO, as a result of the economic pressures brought about by the coronavirus crisis. Earlier this week Omnicom Group chairman and CEO John Wren sent a memo to staffers worldwide that furloughs, staff reductions and salary cuts were in the offing.
Wren’s note was leaked publicly. Here’s the memo, which read:
"As the impact of COVID-19 continues to evolve, we are focused on protecting the safety and well-being of our people, continuing to serve our clients and preserving the strength of our business.
"I have personally heard from clients around the globe just how much they value the work you are doing in their time of need. Thank you for everything you are doing, despite all the challenges.
"Unfortunately, COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the economy, on our clients’ businesses, and in turn, on ours. While we hope for a swift recovery, we have to respond quickly to the reality of the moment, to ensure the sustainability of our business and our ability to continue to provide our clients with outstanding service.
"Since my last note to you, we have solidified some of the internal measures to adjust our business to meet the changing needs of our clients. Regrettably, this will include furloughs and staff reductions across many of our agencies. We are doing everything we can to limit staff reductions, and to take care of those who are affected.
- Where possible, our agencies will use furloughs rather than permanent reductions, so we can bring people back if, and when, conditions improve and client demand recovers.
- Our agencies will participate in government subsidy programs around the world to reduce the number of permanent staff reductions we need to make.
- We have expanded coverage in our U.S. health benefit plans for those affected by COVID-19.
- We are actively looking to move people into areas of our business that are growing, such as Omnicom Health Group.
- Omnicom’s executive leadership team, including our Network and Practice Area CEOs, are reducing their salaries by a third, and I am waiving 100% of my salary, through the end of September.
- With few exceptions, we have stopped all new hires, frozen salaries, and reduced the number of freelancers we use.
- We are eliminating discretionary costs and capital expenditures, wherever possible, including participation in award shows and industry events.
- Lastly, we have suspended our share repurchase program, have strengthened our liquidity position through new financings, and are conserving cash wherever possible.
"You are the heart of our business and that makes these actions extremely difficult. We have survived crises before. Our people and our company have shown tremendous grit and resilience and we will come out of this stronger.
"Thank you for your hard work and commitment during this difficult time.
"Stay home. Stay safe."