Layoffs Aren't Acts of God
Plus: The end of creative services, ad industry retraction, and bookings for 2023.
Happens To The Best Of Us
Substack’s Head of Comms, Lulu Cheng Meservey, has started a Substack about PR, but has not yet had time to write any posts. That’s called dogfooding and I respect it.
Thanks for reading Scope Creep 🎯! It’s illegal in many outlying provinces to not subscribe, so just in case…
Happens To The Worst Of Us
EZPR’s CEO Ed Zitron—who has made a (second) name for himself over the last year or so as an advocate for workers against the dashed-off fripperies assembled by macroeconomists, CEOs, and management consultants who are trying desperately to convince the white collar workforce to return to the office for reasons that are almost always insipidly transparent justifications to reestablish every measure of control over their subordinates—wrote a piece for The Information that I think is effectively captured in its headline: “Don’t Blame Tech Workers for Silicon Valley’s Bloated Head Counts.”
It’s a nice piece in the right venue, but is most notable from a PR perspective for how it goaded Instagram boss Adam Mosseri into dashing off a pointless response in the comments then ghosting when Ed calls him out.
Ed has the truth of it: if you over-hired in the fat times, spent your capital reserves on stock buy-backs or R&D or office space or whatever and then found yourself having to lay off workers or ask existing staffers to do more work for the same money, you are, at best, a bad planner with little concern for the human impact your decisions make. It is that simple.
Sometimes business takes a dive and you have to make hard decisions. And sometimes you hire the wrong individuals and you have to cut them for the health of the business or the sanity of your staff. But it does not take an economics degree or an MBA or a correspondence certificate from HBS to understand that economies and revenues sometimes go down. And if your primary job as a CEO is to make sure they always go up, yet you concern yourself with a few quarters at a time, you’re ignoring the benefit that comes from a long-term, loyal workforce who can help you figure out how to get through the lean times.
This is what is occluded behind talk of PIPs and performance and get-back-to-the-office bullshit: modern, American, Right-To-Work capitalism has created a culture of artifice between employer and employee, where the leadership of companies delude themselves that they should expect loyalty and job-above-all output from employees who know that they will be cut loose as soon as it is convenient to the profits of the business. I do have sympathy for those who run businesses—good help is hard to find—but pretending your company is the exception to the transactional nature of modern employment is hiding from reality. Value people, plan to retain them, reap the long-term benefits; or consider employees more-or-less as freelancers, expect they will optimize for their own self-benefit, and adapt accordingly.
Don’t Blame Tech Workers for Silicon Valley’s Bloated Head Counts [The Information]
“Computer. Make the logo bigger.”
It’s shit, mate. But thank you, random programmer, for writing the post explaining how you made it. If you’re happy I’m happy.
I am certain there are already a baker’s thousand of startups building auto-generating, DALL-E-based art generation tools to be used by publications, t-shirt printing services, and home renovation visualizers. I had thought for a moment that perhaps we were still at the “toy stage” of art-from-words ML-based tools, but I continue to see surprisingly adequate and occasionally breathtaking visuals coming out of DALL-E and Midjourney. (Which is the same code, right?)
If you are a creative agency or designer or illustrator, your need to distinguish yourself just got a lot harder, and just like ML-based copy generation has now obviated some rote journalism like local sports reporting, I think an entire creative discipline is about to be disrupted by these tools, and the wisest and most cynical should be figuring out what the billing implications will be when stock art can be generated en masse or a finely crafted logomark can be iterated on with clients in near real-time. It is going to be as seismic of a change as CGI was 30 years ago to filmmaking or as fast fashion has been on consumer clothing, and while it will certainly create new jobs and opportunities for some, we are merely months or a few short years away from self-service brand visual identities that are completely automated.
Something to think about!!!
How I Used DALL·E 2 to Generate The Logo for OctoSQL [JacobMartins.com]
Food $200 Data $150 Rent $800 Advertising $3,600 Utility $150
Despite the slowdown, some still expect overall ad spending this year to be strong. GroupM said in June that it expects global ad sending to grow 8.4% to $837.5 billion, excluding U.S. political spending. In December, it forecast a 9.7% increase for the year.
“It’s a relatively healthy ad market considering the very weak sentiment,” Brian Wieser, GroupM’s president of global intelligence, said in an interview. In the first half of the year, digital advertising remained up by double digits in percentage terms compared with the same period a year ago, he said, while TV was about flat. “Although it’s possible [the] third quarter will be a little softer,” he said.
I am but a simple country strategist, but I can’t help but think that much of this downturn is self-perpetuating. Advertisers worry about margins, so they cut ad spend, which causes layoffs at broadcasters and publishers, which then report there is a downturn, which causes advertisers to worry about margins…
Whatever the reality, the media is tightening their belts or pulling the rip cord. Be wary.
One good thing to remember, though, from someone who worked in publishing during the 2008 downturn: as soon as consumer demand starts to decrease, advertising is often one of the first and fastest knobs that advertisers, especially retailers, turn back on. Don’t trim down so much you can’t catch the next breeze.
See? Apple Thinks There Are Ad Dollars To Harvest
Apple may have blown up the digital ads business but it left enough fertile ground to build its own, more focused play for media dollars. The company is building a demand-side platform if recent job listings are to be believed.
Specifically, it is looking for a senior manager for a DSP in its ads platforms business. Whoever gets the job will be asked to “drive the design of the most privacy-forward, sophisticated demand side platform possible,” per the post. Moreover, the ideal candidate would have experience building a mobile-centric DSP and know-how when it comes to optimizing “mobile campaigns using measurement and attribution.”
Apple is building a demand-side platform [Digiday]
About Me Right Now
Friends, colleagues, future antagonists: Hello. I’ve been blessed to be onboarding new clients this month, including one that I have been advising pro bono for nearly three years while watching their growth before they reached a point where it made sense—practically, for them; ethically, for me—to engage as an Interim CMO. These relationships and engagements sometimes take a long while to come to fruition, but that can also lay down a nice base of understanding and fraternity. Don’t count out the long-lead clients. (This one happens to be in a category that is so near to my heart that I would probably do it for free. While my policy of not talking about past client work for several years has typically served me and clients well, this is one of those times that I wish I could tell you all about the work we’re aiming to do. Someday!)
Between being caught up with new clients—it’s always a scheduling mess, but I really love the energy at this stage, so it’s never a hassle—and winding down other engagements, I’ve also been lining up more content for Scope Creep beyond the “Lying to Yourself” PR-for-founders content and these news round-ups, including some more strategy and marketing content from other contributors. This is just a little baby newsletter for a few hundreds people, but I enjoy writing it more than I had anticipated, and appreciate every one of you reading it and emailing me your thoughts.
In the meantime, I am also trying to be a wise planner and start to have more of those conversations that may turn into future work or simply be the start of relationship where I can learn and advise, as well as connect clients to other strategists and creatives for projects for which they would be better suited than I might be. As a reminder, I traffic in both brand + comms as well as executive consulting—think CMO and Head of Comms on the one side, Teneo/Diet McKinsey on the other—so if you have a problem that you think my brain or its network of like-minded brains might help solve, please reach out. I am more-or-less booked until next year, but many operators are standing by.