‘Agencies will have to wait it out’: Client business uncertainty flows downhill

Digiday 04 May 2020 04:02
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May 4, 2020 by Kristina Monllos

Agencies are in a holding pattern awaiting their clients’ return to advertising as they had been, should that ever happen. It’s not a surprise that agencies are beholden to their clients needs, agencies are in the client-services business after all. But without long-term planning from clients, agencies are unable to map out what their business will look like past the next few weeks let alone over the next year.

Much of the planning that is happening is contingency planning. For example, an agency leader told me that new business pitches have ground to a halt. At least, the ones that weren’t already in motion that he was privy to have. He’s hoping for a pitch frenzy come fall. In the meantime, he’s thinking about furloughing rather than laying off the employees who are great at pitching. If the anticipated pitches happen, he’ll need those employees back on staff quickly.

“People put on the fake optimism face because it attracts clients,” said a media agency executive, adding that he’s heard about agencies doing that and laying off employees as they “say one thing and do another.” The tactic may be one way agencies are trying to save face in this moment as the precarious nature of their businesses intensifies.

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