NEW YORK: Hill & Knowlton has joined the legions of PR firms laying
off staff members as a result of clients reducing their budgets.
The WPP-owned firm, which is headed in the US by Thomas Hoog, has axed
20 positions (or 13% of the workforce) at its New York office, including
two senior managing directors. The cutbacks are a result of a reduction
in spending by tech clients and a reduced demand for marketing
However, it's not just the tech decline that has hurt the agency. The
New York office was hit by the dollars 1 million loss of the Puerto Rico
Tourism Company account last week, as a result of a change in the
This is thought to be a significant factor contributing to the
'We made a strategic decision to align our staff with our mix of
business,' explained Phil Sheldon, H&K New York general manager. He
added that the firm was continuing to recruit in areas such as
However it also has two general manager vacancies in Atlanta and
Washington, DC as a result of senior level departures. Alan Ulman quit
the Atlanta office last month for NDC Health, while Victoria Clarke is
leaving H&K Washington, DC to join the Department of Defense.
H&K's layoffs follow the trend of an industry-wide purge prompted by
reduced outsourcing by clients (see Analysis, p. 13).
WPP-owned Burson-Marsteller was the first agency to confirm cutbacks in
November, reducing its head count by 5%. Sister agency Ogilvy followed,
losing 70 people in February. And last week Edelman confirmed that it,
too, was axing 60 positions (see story, p. 7).
Hi-tech agencies have been particularly badly hit by the downturn, with
Niehaus Ryan Wong, Citigate Cunningham and Middleberg all reducing their
head count during the past few weeks.
Two further senior departures from H&K are unconnected to the
Julie Johnson, H&K's national director of media and communications, has
quit to join private equity firm Warburg Pincus. Johnson, who is yet to
be replaced, becomes vice president of marketing at Warburg.
Meanwhile, H&K's senior managing director of marketing, Janet Bartucci,
has left the firm to join Estee Lauder as vice president of global
Bartucci has been replaced by Bradley Daves, who is senior managing
director and group head of New York marketing communications.