Are You About To Lose Your Advertising Job?

Spot The Warning Signs of an Impending Advertising Layoff

Laid Off
Laid Off. Getty Images

As sure as night follows day, and clichéd phrases appear in introductory paragraphs, there will be layoffs in advertising agencies. Once, in the days of Mad Men, the layoffs came when the agency lost a huge client. These days, layoffs can happen for any number of reasons, from a client loss, to the CEO deciding that he or she wants to move the entire agency across the country. Hey, it happens.

But whatever the reason…it happens.


So, here are the big signs to look for. Some apply to specific departments, like the creative department, or account services, but they all hold some blunt truths.

You Used To Be Busy. Now, You’re Not.
This is by far the biggest sign that a layoff is coming. If you work in advertising, you will have the occasional day when you’re not too busy. But days, becoming weeks, of having not much to do – that’s a massive red flag. Agencies cannot afford to have people sitting around doing nothing. If you were once finding it hard to grab a bite or some sleep, but now have trouble looking busy, then guess what…you’re going to be let go.

Managers Are Avoiding You Like You’re a Leper. 
People who hold positions of power in the agency will be the first to know about layoffs that are coming. They will not only know how many people are going to be let go, but the names of those on the list. If you are one of those people, you will be avoided.

They will not want to give away anything in conversation, and they will also feel very guilty. It’s not easy to do small talk with someone you are about to stab in the back.

You Are Given All The Dirty Jobs.
Remember what Clint Eastwood said: “Now you know why they call me Dirty Harry; every dirty job that comes along.” You do not want to suddenly become the Dirty Harry of your agency.

If you are suddenly getting the jobs no one else wants to touch, there are two possible reasons for this change of scenery; and neither is good. First, they want you to quit from all the rotten work you’re doing. Or, they are about to let you go and are giving you all the jobs that don’t matter. Either way, you’re on the way out.

You Don’t Know Anything. 
You used to know what was going on. Clients told you things, account managers kept you in the loop, creative directors talked to you about upcoming projects. Now, everything is kept from you, and anything you learn is a complete surprise. “Wait, we’re pitching for that account?!” “Hang on, when did we hire those guys?!” Sound familiar? If it does, you’re in trouble. It may be time to quit.

Everything You Do, or Suggest, is Shot Down.
If you work in the creative department, you cannot get an idea approved. If you work in account services, you cannot get a project started. This is what happens when “dead weight” is about to be cut from the agency. If you are having trouble getting anything you do to be recognized or green lit, they don’t want you around. Period.

You Aren’t Being Invited to Meetings.
We all hate meetings, right? But they’re just a part of life in agencies.

However, be careful what you wish for. If you suddenly see your calendar becoming more and more empty to the point when days can go by, or even weeks, without any kind of meeting, you’re in trouble. If you’re not in meetings that count, you don’t count. If you aren’t required, and your input is not needed, at kick-off meetings and creative reviews, you are about to be given the elbow. Start looking for work.

Your Opinion Isn’t Important.
Once, when you spoke, people listened. Now, you are ignored. You give your input and nobody seems to care. You give feedback on a project, and nothing is done. You say “I think this should be more like this than that” and all you get is a polite “that’s interesting” response. Face it, nobody cares what you think because in a month from now you won’t be there anyway.

This is a sad wake-up call. Get out.