M&C Saatchi Boss Demands Truth on Layoffs; He Should Start With Publicis

Last Updated Jul 17, 2009 7:51 PM EDT

Chris Jaques, CEO of M&C Saatchi Asia, wrote a heartfelt blog post for Media magazine in the UK that asked agency staff to leak to him how many people had been laid off from agencies. He should start by posing that question to Publicis, the only major agency holding company that has so far not developed the cojones to confess how many people in total have been laid off from its agencies. Jacques wrote:
I promise to keep your name and personal details completely confidential.

But I would like you to let me know approximately how many people have been made redundant from your agency in 2009?

Because agency management throughout the region are lying, and it's the agency staff who are suffering. Management are telling the media that they have made no redundancies, so that they can preserve a false image of success and resilience.

Over at Publicis, CEO Maurice Levy has exclaimed that he feels "love" for recessions because they "excite" him. Tactful! As you can see on the BNET Ad Agency Layoff Counter, all the other networks have either announced, leaked, or demurely declined to deny mass layoffs across their networks. WPP - up to 7,200 jobs gone; Omnicom - 3,500; Interpublic - 3,000; The Nielsen Co. - 1,600; Aegis - 780.

Except Publicis.

Publicis has kept its mouth shut on layoffs even though there have been hundreds of layoffs at the network. Here's an incomplete sampling: Starcom MediaVest Chicago - 80 jobs gone; Leo Burnett - 75; Digitas - 70; Saatchi & Saatchi LA - 20; Publicis West - 8-10. That's just a partial count. But at no time has Publicis ever 'fessed up and revealed any headcount woes. (M&C Saatchi and Saatchi & Saatchi are separate companies; only the latter is owned by Publicis.)

In part that is because revenues at Publicis globally are still growing (up 1.3 percent in Q1). In theory, Publicis may have hired more people in aggregate than it fired to grow that business.

But that growth came from the East and Latin America; in the West the ad business is shrinking. Publicis' North America revenues shrank 3.6 percent in Q1. Its Europe revenues shrank 6.6 percent. You're delusional if you think everyone covered by those numbers kept their jobs.

Delusion, however, is exactly what Levy has hoped to conjure in observers of his network. He said in December -- way before the recession hit bottom -- that he did not foresee layoffs affecting any of his 45.000 staff. Instead, he used the word "consolidation." So Jacques should expect Publicis to continue to deny that there have been layoffs across its networks, merely "consolidation."