Originally published in the Idaho Business Review, March 2, 2009
No one is safe.
That’s the popular opinion in the marketing, advertising and communications industry. Dire news pours out of trade publications such as Adweek and Ad Age on a weekly basis. Slashing budgets and cutting costs are necessities in today’s business marketplace.
And the layoffs. Oh the layoffs. Will they ever end?
So, with the doom and gloom out of the way, let’s take a practical look at the industry, the year that was, and what to expect in the months and years to come.
For most, 2008 began with a certain degree of promise. Agencies were hiring around the state, and the war for talent was in full effect. By summer, however, new job listings had tapered off, and the frequency of new hire announcements slowed to a trickle. As summer turned to fall, word of cuts throughout the local marketing, communications and media world began to spread. Those cuts, by most accounts, were necessary steps to ensure the long-term viability of the respective businesses. They weren’t easy decisions. They never are.
The only constant is change.
Business relationships have also evolved over the past year. “Clients are looking at their budgets much closer” says Lou Perlaky, Vice President of Client Services at Noot Group in Boise. “They’re looking to get the best value, and the best return on investment.” Perlakyalso notes that clients are asking better questions, and are more actively involved in the creative process than ever before. “They’re much more concerned about how their money is going to be spent.”
That sentiment is echoed by Jeff Nielsen, President of Davies Rourke in Boise. “Everybody is working smarter – more frugally” he says. “Clients are looking for more value for their dollar, and reassurance that they money is being spent efficiently.”
These changes are not unique to the Treasure Valley. In Northern Idaho, the story is much the same. “Mid year was when the hit was felt for Salty” says Jeff Sutherland, Owner of Salty Design Foundry in Coeur d’Alene. The shop, whose work has been featured in HOW magazine recently, has been adjusting to the changes in their business. “It gave Salty the opportunity to focus on new client prospects and keep moving forward on finding clients that understand the importance of what we do” says Sutherland.
Agencies aren’t the only ones who have been impacted. Media has had to adapt as well. “Consumers are putting off purchasing big ticket items, but they’re still spending” says Greg Giersch, General Sales Manager at Journal Broadcast Group. Those delays in purchasing, in turn, effect the advertisers with whom Giersch and his staff work. “We’ve had a few larger advertisers who havecut their advertising dollars, and it takes about five smaller advertisers to fill the void left by a larger one.” But Giersch is quick to point out that the Treasure Valley still has a vibrant business community, and even today, small businesses see the value in marketing and advertising.
Looking toward the future.
Conventional wisdom says that the tide will eventually turn, and business will once again pick up. In the mean time, however, those in this, and other professional service industries, are forced to adapt as needed. For some, that means narrowing the focus of their services, and sticking with the tried-and-true. For others, it means diversifying, and offering a broader set of services in order to develop a stronger relationship with their clients. Either way, it is clear that business as usual is not an option. In the end, those in the marketing and communications industry will, as they’ve always done, play a role that is part Artist, part Psychologist, part Salesman and part Coach. “To be successful, you have to know the audience better than they know themselves” says Perlaky.
The year that is will be as challenging, if not more so, than the year that was. But those in this industry have always been a resilient bunch, and expect that today’s challenges will ultimately help them become better at what they do, and provide a higher quality of service to their clients in the long run.