H&K joins string of firms with cutbacks in NewYork

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

communications counsel.

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

country's government.

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Bartucci has been replaced by Bradley Daves, who is senior managing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.

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