Amazon’s decision to lay off 10,000 odd employees follows the unceremonious ouster of thousands of employees at Twitter and Meta. The big tech gloom is here. In India, the startup winter has already led to firms such as Byju’s and Unacademy cutting employee cost and freezing hiring.
While the tech gloom seems to be far from over, some leaders in advertising believe that the mass tech layoffs could be an opportunity for advertising agencies to hire good talent that is now available in the market.
A lot of startups in India have picked up mid to senior level employees who worked in the brand and creative side to create their in-house creative teams and now that funding is drying up, these companies are cutting cost especially in the advertising and marketing spends and trimming down their brand teams.
Saurabh Verma, the former CEO of Publicis Communications, who now runs martech startup Wondrlab, recently posted on LinkedIn extending a helping hand to those who have lost their jobs.
“We can help. If you have been laid off, please DM. There are clients looking at CMO roles and we ourselves are looking at building a world-class sales team for our WISR and Opportune platforms. If nothing else we will do our best to help in any way we can. It’s tough but we can get through this,” he writes.
Verma declined to elaborate further on the initiative.
Influx of talent, market correction
Shrenik Gandhi, co-founder and CEO of Mumbai-based digital marketing agency, White Rivers Media admits that they have seen a good influx of talent across tech, marketing, partnerships.
“We are having some strong conversations already. Advertising agencies are generally a more stable place to work, as being a service heavy and asset lite model, the risk of such scenarios are much less. Also, since most agencies work across categories, the risk is further divided,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Pratik Gupta, Co-founder, Zoo Media, which owns the creative digital agency FoxyMoron says that this is the correction that the advertising industry was waiting for. According to him, over the last four to five years, agencies lost good talent as they were poached at incomparable price points by tech startups.
“I think that a lot of the people who were picked up by big tech firms or startups were paid steep packages, irrespective of experience. So, what it did for us over the last four or five years is that it changed the market. I'm hoping that employers now have the ability to hire the right talent at the right price,” he notes.
As per industry estimates, big tech firms hired people at 200 percent to 400 percent hike since the talent pool is limited. A manager level position from a digital agency earning around Rs 12-14 lakh per annum could easily double the salary if hired by these startups.
“For the senior talent that's been laid off I'm not sure if agencies are in a position to afford those laid-off by tech companies at this point. A few may come over to the agency side at leadership levels. Some of those laid off have already been agency leadership in the past. But it's all about the right fit, skills and intent,” says Schbang’s Harshil Karia
“If clients have reduced their ad spends then ad agencies would also be laying off employees. However, the ad industry largely doesn’t subscribe to that notion. For instance, 30 percent of our clients are unicorns and they have reduced our ad spends. This does affect our business to an extent but we won’t fire our employees. However some startups do have a hire-and-fire mechanism,” Gupta explains.
Clearly, the unusual employee cost has added over the years and now is the time for market correction.
Harshil Karia, founder, Schbang, shares that over the last few months they've seen great interest from people across industry to come back to the agency side across levels which is a positive sign.
“At operational, junior and mid-levels agencies are still seeing an influx of talent - across creative and tech. At Schbang, we see close to 50 new joinees per month. Some of them are from tech companies, the brand side and other agencies,” he notes.
Offering competitive salaries
It is expected that while junior and mid-senior level hires are most likely to happen post the tech layoffs, senior level hires could be far and few.
“For the senior talent that's been laid off I'm not sure if agencies are in a position to afford those laid-off by tech companies at this point. A few may come over to the agency side at leadership levels. Some of those laid off have already been agency leadership in the past. But it's all about the right fit, skills and intent,” notes Schbang’s Karia.
Candidates will need to acknowledge that there there is a pay parity between the tech and advertising industry markets.
“Getting jobs at the same pay scale will be challenging to get in this market. However, I foresee many opting for roles as freelancers or consultants,” notes Zoo Media’s Gupta.
Agencies will have to smartly package the salaries as well wisely structure the expected salaries in fixed and variable components, says a head of a digital marketing agency requesting anonymity.
Mentorship is critical
Apart from jobs, advertising leaders also feel that mentoring continues to be an area which needs to be actively promoted. Some leaders have stepped up to help those who have been dealing with either job losses, or mounting work pressure.
Prathap Suthan, co-founder of Bang in the Middle, recently took to LinkedIn to extend help and mentor anyone who is dealing with life-related pressures and challenges.
“I have been approached by a lot of people on LinkedIn. Of course, from employment perspective and otherwise but I always believe there are so many others who are even scared to approach me. When I was young in the industry I had people to guide me and I want to reciprocate that since junior executives might not have access to the right kind of mentors,” he adds.