The hard times experienced by Britain’s ad agencies have resulted in upwards of 600 redundancies in the past year, and the total may be much higher, according to new figures from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.

In its forthcoming agency census, the IPA estimates that 14,000 staffers work for its 209 member firms, around 4% less than anticipated. A year ago the figure stood at 13,500 at 196 agencies, and with the subsequent expansion in membership the body had been expecting a new total of around 14,600.

A host of agencies have axed staff, among them Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, BMP DDB, D’Arcy, Saatchi & Saatchi, M&C Saatchi and HHCL & Partners. Commented IPA president Bruce Haines: “The figures depress me deeply but they're not surprising.”

However, the number of layoffs could be much higher, with some industry observers predicting a decline of around 10%.

“Anecdotally, we hear that more and more freelancers and consultants are being released by agencies, but we have no real fix on it,” added IPA director-general Hamish Pringle. “Perhaps this is a factor we'll have to consider when we compile our figures in the future. The numbers could well be worse than we fear.”

Nevertheless, the official figures are well ahead of the all-time low of 11,100 polled in the recession of the early 1990s. Continued Pringle: “The difference between now and the early 90s is that today's agencies were already working to high levels of efficiency before the downturn. The result should be that many of the people laid off should find themselves back in employment as prospects improve.”

The full results from the IPA 2001 Census will be released on January 28.

News source: BrandRepublic (UK)