Brandon Doerrer
Jul 4, 2024

Laid-off creatives strike a nerve with comedic #OpenToWork film

Feeling the stress of announcing their availability on LinkedIn, a group of creatives banded together to document their experience in a comedic film—and sparked a movement in the process.

Screenshot via Vimeo.
Screenshot via Vimeo.

It’s no secret that the advertising industry is one of the many sectors suffering from wave after wave of layoffs due to a combination of macroeconomic factors and the growing influence of technology. 

And while there are myriad issues that laid-off employees have to contend with, simply announcing on LinkedIn that one is open to new opportunities has become a nerve-wracking endeavor: One must ensure they have a strong network of connections and that their announcement stands out from the dozens of other similar posts.

Hoping to make their “open to work” announcements shine through, creatives have leaned into out-of-the-box methods. Chris Barnard, now an independent creative director after being laid off from Austin-based McGarrah Jessee in late 2023, hired a Tom Petty impersonator to sing the news to the tune of “Free Fallin’”—replacing the titular lyric with “freelancin’.”

Carter Pagel, a freelance director and creative director, named other examples he’s seen, including hiring a member of the Insane Clown Posse to announce one is open to work or jokingly announcing they’re “open to party,” and starting a party line for people to call.

Pagel noted the pressure of simply making the announcement is huge, and not well understood unless one is going through it. So he and Barnard, along with executive producer Ron Rendon, decided to depict it using their professional expertise via a five-minute comedic film.

#OpenToWork, created by a team entirely made up of laid-off freelance creatives, shows the deep level of consideration and creativity laid-off marketers are under to promote themselves and their availability. 

Open To Work from Chris Barnard on Vimeo.

“We all tried to take the same advice we've given clients at some point over the years, which is ‘show don't tell,’" said Barnard of the motivation behind the work. “Instead of saying, ‘Here are all the things I've done and brands I've worked on,’ we figured let's go make the kind of work that we want to make.”

It also, conveniently, serves as an announcement that those involved are—you guessed it—open to work, showcasing their talents in a format other than a simple reel and showing what they can do with a scrappy budget and zero media dollars.

The message has struck a nerve within the creative community and beyond, its creators said. Barnard described the response to #OpenToWork as “overwhelmingly positive,” with many people seeing their own experiences reflected in the film.

“We’ve heard a lot of people say things like, ‘you nailed it,’ or, ‘I really feel this,’ or, ‘it’s real—maybe even a little too real,’” he added.

Bringing creativity to the job hunt

The process of looking for a job is often grueling—and widely different from the day-to-day creatives are used to. Little creativity can be found in filling out dozens of applications and reaching out to various recruiters. Anyone would quickly become creatively drained by the process.

For some creatives, losing a job also means losing the resources to make creative work. Barnard noted, “The thing I missed most, especially in those first couple months after getting laid off, was what an agency creative job allows you, which is: You get to make things every single day with people you really like.”

At the end of the day, he said, creatives want to make things—regardless of pay or budget—and making the #OpenToWork film highlighted that fact.

“It felt good to do what we do,” said Rendon, “Instead of constantly focusing on trying to find work and putting yourself out there and getting ghosted by recruiters—all the stuff that everybody experiences in this position.”

The #OpenToWork project not only gave the team some of that energy back, but effectively worked as a recruitment tool: Barnard said he’s already gotten work due to the film. 

Moreover, the work underscored the importance of human creativity and connectivity in a marketing era of efficiencies and AI. “There's value in creative,” said Pagel. “You make something relatable and people connect with it—and that only comes from smart ideas and smart writing and good production.”

Connecting a struggling industry 

Pagel said the response to the work has made him feel more connected to other creatives in the industry, “like, oh yeah, we’re a community.” 

Rather than feeding into the competitiveness that often plagues the field, the response to this personal piece of work has been welcoming, congratulatory and empathetic.

“The agency world can be cutthroat to say the least,” added Barnard. “So to see the warm response and be reminded that ultimately, the majority of us are all rooting for each other and want to see people doing good, has been great.”

Rendon added the work has sparked connections outside the marketing industry: “We’re not the only industry that’s dealing with massive layoffs, and there are a lot of people on LinkedIn that are trying to get seen and make connections,” he said.

When social media success plays into the job hunt, widening those connections and diversifying one’s algorithm can only help.


Campaign US

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