No jobs for the boys (and girls)

By The Drum, Administrator

October 9, 2003 | 6 min read

Claire Hardy

Writing for an industry magazine can be a bit of a mixed bag. On the plus side there are plenty of industry events, interesting people and scurrilous gossip to keep you entertained. But on the other side, the less fun side, there are stories that can be genuinely painful to write.

Such has been the case over the last month when, first, Faulds Advertising closed its doors and then, again, when news reached the magazine that KLP was to shut its Edinburgh office.

With upwards of 80 people out of work within the space of a few weeks, it has been a dark chapter in the recent history of the Scottish marketing community, regardless of how healthy the remaining agencies may be.

But the question is: what now?

For the staff who lost their jobs there are several possible routes forward. The first, and most obvious, is freelance work with Scotland’s other agencies. Rob Morrice, regional chief executive of Incepta Group, said: “There’s going to be a frantic grab for the business that is around. What will happen is that there will be packages put together with some of the people who worked on those accounts to try and get the business on board. I know a lot of the senior guys at Faulds are in talks with most of the big agencies. I’m sure any of the good staff that handled any of the good accounts will be getting fought over.”

Ian McAteer, managing director at The Union, believes the current developments may lead to a portion of the workforce leaving the industry altogether. He comments: “The truth is that there isn’t enough work to go around. There’s more and more people going freelance or looking to other options. On the up side, though, people have a marvellous ability to change, to adapt and do other things. I think there are plenty of jobs out there in the economy, but it might mean being a bit flexible. There are still companies doing well who will be able to give work to some people. I think there are also opportunities on the client side. I think some people will leave the industry, start restaurants or something. It’ll really give some people the chance to re-evaluate their lives.”

With the marketplace as it is, it seems likely that a certain number of agency folk will leave the industry. Ian Wright, managing director of Family, believes the loss of this talent will be a bad sign for the Scottish marketplace. He says: “There are lots of people out there looking for jobs and I don’t know what will happen to them. Agencies that traditionally recruited people will not be recruiting at the moment. There are just not the jobs in Scotland any more, so people are going to be forced to look outside Scotland. That said, I am not sure whether the people working in Scotland really want to go and work in London. We are going to lose a lot of very good people, which means there will be a smaller pot of good people for the future of our industry. Six years ago there were 123 people at Faulds and amongst that there were 20 to30 bright stars for the future. The future of the industry looked healthy.”

None of this will probably serve to reassure the people themselves, however. In a tough marketplace there are many people who will find it, through no lack of talent on their part, hard to come by work in the industry.

One place these people can turn is industry charity NABS. NABS operates throughout the UK and serves to provide advice to those working in the media and marketing industries. Chief executive Kate Harris explains: “We are based in London but we do a lot of work with people all over the country. For people who are made redundant or are about to be made redundant we offer practical advice and emotional support. On the practical side, it’s all about what people should be aware of, their rights as an employee, and what they’re entitled to. It’s not about going in and attacking employers, but making sure that employees are informed of their rights.

“I think, on the emotional side, redundancy is a real blow to people’s self esteem, so we help build them back up again.”

As well as affecting the individuals themselves, however, these job losses reflect on the industry as a whole. Is this a negative omen for the industry as a whole?

Morrice believes not. He says: “One thing is, we’ll see at least one other start-up. These people will be out of a job, and some won’t be able to get one at another agency, so they’ll have no option but to start up. There’ll be displacement, but they could start up and be better than some of the established agencies. It will be really difficult, but I think it’ll happen because there will be no other choice. Some of the best start-ups we’ve had in Scotland have been brought about because people have had their backs to the wall.

“It all sounds very bleak, but what is left will be better for it. I don’t think in the long run it’s a bad thing, it’s just a shake-up and it happens. It reminds me of the start of the 90s, when agencies like Halls went under.”

Claire Hardy, managing director at BD-Network, agrees: “I don’t think that it’s necessarily doom and gloom for the Scottish industry. It’s a restructuring of the Scottish marketplace, which happens from time to time,” she says. “The main thing for the companies still operating in the market is to continue giving clients the best value for money and over-servicing them, to make sure they are building strong relationships.”

These latest developments have rocked the Scottish marketing ship but, as many of the prominent industry members will say, it’s far from sunk. As far as the future goes, it remains to be seen whether these events will usher in golden days ... or another dark age.

To contact NABS call 0207 292 7330.


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