Raahil Chopra
Feb 06, 2023

Tech layoffs: Can advertising benefit?

Campaign India speaks with agency leaders, an advertising and branding college program chair, as well as someone who has worked with a tech company and an agency, to figure out whether advertising can fight back to start attracting talent that was looking for a way out

Tech layoffs: Can advertising benefit?
Over the last few years, advertising agencies have been facing a dearth of talent as tech companies like Google, Meta, Twitter, and Amazon among others have proven to be attractive options.
Now, with these tech companies announcing wholesale layoffs, and advertising agencies laying more emphasis on martech, we’re seeing talent beginning to consider the latter as an option to begin their career with.
Can advertising compete with these industries?
S Subramanyeswar, group chief executive officer, MullenLowe Lintas Group, chief strategy officer – Asia Pacific, MullenLowe Group, states that while now is the best time to attract talent, pay still remains an issue.
“While it’s a great opportunity to attract the redistribution of tech talent that is happening now, agencies will find it hard to match the high pay packets, stock options and bonuses that tech companies give. For years, talent crisis has affected the agencies and now is the best time to bring on board some bright minds, particularly digital media and creative-tech specialists with a purpose and meaning. But agencies will also have to compete with many other industries who may be ready to give a higher quay,” he said.
He also states that digital is a great option to attract freshers because it matches their pace, pep and purpose.
Amaresh Godbole, CEO, digital technology business, Publicis Groupe India, had moved to Google for a couple of years, before returning to take on this role early last year.
He believes that word has spread about the layoffs and those looking for job security could look to get that by joining advertising agencies.
“People talk to people, and they will see that there haven’t been layoffs in advertising in these times. Advertising is a service business and it can only grow by growing talent. Layoffs tend to be the last option agencies take and this happens when there is dramatic business loss. Otherwise even with regular account losses, we still need people to pitch and bring new business. Compare this to the product companies, where it's difficult to measure an individual’s impact. Everything outside engineering and sales is a strategic value add for these companies. When times are good it's valued, but the hammer can come down on you during difficult times,” explained Godbole.
Echoing Godbole’s sentiment about job stability, Neha Singh, program chair, NMIMS School of Branding and Advertising (SOBA), stated, “The recent advancement of technology raises concerns about job displacement due to automation and AI, but the creative industries provide stability. Human skills such as empathy, creativity, and storytelling are not easily replicated by machines and remain in high demand, particularly in advertising and media. As AI continues to progress, the significance of these human skills will only increase, making a career in the creative field a wise choice for those seeking stability and personal fulfilment.”
What happens to the mid-level staff?
Ashish Chakravarty, executive director and head of creative – India, McCann Worldgroup, believes that the mid-level that migrated out of advertising to the tech companies will find it difficult to return to advertising.
Attributing this to the pay leap they received when they moved out, he said, “When those with around seven to eight years of experience move outside of advertising agencies, they get a pay leap which would take them around five years to achieve in advertising. If they are to come back to advertising after a few years, they may not have the skill set that agencies require to command salaries that are being paid by tech companies. This is why they could find it difficult to return.”
Will advertising be affected?
While Godbole suggests that layoffs are the absolute last option within agencies and other leaders from the fraternity state that they’re far from laying off people, Sandeep Goyal, managing director, Rediffusion, is certain it’s just a matter of time before the agency world is affected.
“There is no isolation happening in the world. If the tech layoffs have started, they're the first signals of big trouble. We've seen this in the past. It was most visible during the dotcom bust and in 2008 as well. The tech layoffs will affect a lot more industries and it will impact everyone including advertising. The impact of something like this is also a lead-lag impact. So, when the recovery will start, tech will be the first to get back on its feet. Then, our industry which is a dependent one will also recover. However, we’ll take longer to get back,” he said.
While this is in the long-term, Godbole and Goyal are already seeing changes in the advertising talent space.
“One impact of the layoffs is that the war for talent isn't as challenging as it was last year. Recruiting and retaining talent was becoming incredibly expensive and difficult because of the options people had, but now people are more circumspect before jumping ship,” Godbole added.
Goyal is seeing lesser tantrums from the workforce.
“The honeymoon period of people wanting to work from home and throwing tantrums about not coming to office is over. Those people won't come back into the employment stream and when you're out of it for a bit, coming back to the space is more difficult too. The tantrums and their stories will largely be over,” surmised Goyal.
Campaign India