Wieden + Kennedy has laid off 11% of its global workforce. According to the agency, the main reason for the staff reduction is due to business pressures related to the continuing pandemic.
“We negotiated this as long as we could, but W+K and Covid-19 have reached an impasse,” the agency said in a statement. “How long this will last seems to be anybody’s guess, so we have had to make some hard choices. We are saying goodbye to people that we love; 11% of our network. Some raised their hands to leave, helping to save the jobs of others. Some received bad news graciously. Voluntary or not, everyone was given the softest landing possible. All of them are a loss to us. Any agency that gets them is lucky.”
The agency did not share any information about client movement, or reductions in work scopes—nor did it specify which offices felt the impact most.
According to people familiar with the agency, W+K prioritized keeping staff employed for as long as possible, while cutting back on nonessential expenses beginning in March. Additionally, agency leadership and top earners took pay reductions, which continued across all positions in the business on a sliding scale, related to level of earning.
On average, those who lost their jobs are receiving four months of severance in addition to tenure increases, depending on the policies of each office’s home country. In the U.S., W+K is extending benefits through the end of 2020. W+K is also assisting with recruiting and job placement resources and services.
W+K’s network spans the U.K., the Netherlands, Japan, India, China and Brazil, in addition to its two U.S. offices in New York and Portland (its HQ). Of late, the agency’s New York office has put out work for brands like Ford and McDonald’s, an account the agency won last September. Prominently, the Portland office led work for Nike, creating bold spots featuring Colin Kaepernick in 2018.
The network also proclaimed its support for Black Lives Matter, issuing a statement that it only wants clients and staff who support the movement. In May, W+K led work for Nike that addressed the issue of systemic racism in the U.S.
Earlier this month, Facebook, a W+K client, faced backlash as some of the world’s largest advertisers are boycotting the platform (some, including Coca-Cola and Ford, are W+K clients). For its part, W+K said it would be “unprofessional” to comment about “the challenges our client faces right now.”
W+K is a nine-time Adweek Agency of the Year, including back-to-back wins as U.S. Agency of the Year in 2018 and 2019. The agency’s co-president, Colleen DeCourcy, was named Adweek’s Creative Leader of the Decade.
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