The possibility of job losses is a foremost concern among many workers in adland as brands cut spending amid what some call a downturn and others call a recession or even a potential depression. However, the agencies themselves mostly believe it's too early for them to comment on this sensitive issue.
Campaign Asia-Pacific reached out to a large number of agencies to see if they were planning or considering any cuts, or, conversely, were willing to say job cuts were off the table at least for now.
The majority said they can't comment at this time or had nothing to report. This group includes BBH, Dentsu Aegis Network, IPG Mediabrands, M&C Saatchi, Ogilvy, Omnicom Media Group and Wunderman Thompson. Reasons given included the fast-developing situation and the need to coordinate responses on a global level. A few other agencies or groups have not yet responded.
Only one agency group was willing to be firmly positive at the moment. "We are not letting anyone go," said Vishnu Mohan, chairman and CEO of Havas Group India and Southeast Asia. "A new reality is upon us as we are dealing with an unprecedented level of change and disruption. Supporting our talent in these uncertain times is key and as an organisation our focus is on trying to find the best approach to be successful in this new reality."
The network is committed to "riding this wave collectively", he said, adding that the relative downtime is an excellent opportunity "to get better at our craft, whether it is ideating, upskilling our people across all disciplines, accelerating regional rollouts of programmes designed to help our markets, or strategic initiatives to help our clients". Havas is actively encouraging and implementing such activites across all levels, Mohan said.
Several agencies, even those which declined to comment directly, said they are paying special attention to supporting their employees' mental health and emotional well-being during this time. (For more insight into how Asia's agency networks support their people, see our just-published Agency Report Cards.)
"We are constantly communicating to our people from top down that the organisation is stable and we are doing everything we can to mitigate against the effects of the crisis," Mohan said. "Positivity, continued agility and flexibility is driving us as we acknowledge that when the crisis is over, our people, more so than ever before, will be our strongest asset in our efforts to regain normality and maintain momentum."
Publicis Groupe also responded to our queries. Asked whether the company has taken any specific actions concerning staffing levels so far, a spokesperson replied, "We will leverage the vast talent and capabilities of the Groupe in every way thanks to the country model we have put in place, fully unleashing the potential of Power of One for our clients."
Asked whether the company was willing to commit officially that it would not be letting anyone go in the near future, the spokesperson said, "We have postponed every recruitment." And to a question about whether the company is taking any specific actions to reassure its people about their job security as the crisis wears on, the spokesperson replied, "We don’t contract any freelancers and don’t use third parties in any area."
The spokesperson also referred us to previous statements issued by its chairman and CEO, Arthur Sadoun.