Wieden+Kennedy lays off 150, blames coronavirus

Advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, one of Portland’s best-known businesses, laid off 11% of its global workforce this week as the pandemic clobbered the global advertising market.

“We negotiated this as long as we could, but W+K and COVID-19 have reached an impasse,” the firm said in a written statement. “How long this will last seems to be anybody’s guess, so we have had to make some hard choices.”

Ad Age, which reported on the layoffs Tuesday, said Wieden+Kennedy had 1,500 employees at the end of last year. The privately held Portland firm declined to say exactly how many people lost their jobs or specify where the cuts took place.

Wieden+Kennedy said it cut back expenses and pay for top earners beginning in March and has made additional cuts in subsequent months. W+K said it is providing laid-off employees an average of four months of severance and extending benefits through at least the end of the year for U.S. employees.

Wieden+Kennedy said it is also offering job placement assistance for laid-off workers and allowing them to keep their laptops.

Founded in 1982, W+K is among the world’s most prominent advertising firms. It coined Nike’s “Just Do It” catchphrase and has run dozens of ad campaigns for the shoemaker that have entered the national consciousness – among them last year’s Nike commercial featuring NFL quarterback turned civil rights icon Colin Kaepernick.

Other prominent W+K clients include Airbnb, Coca-Cola, Disney, Facebook, Old Spice, Ford, McDonald’s and KFC.

In addition to the Portland headquarters, W+K has offices in New York, Amsterdam, Tokyo, London, Shanghai, Delhi and Sao Paulo.

W+K client Nike also announced layoffs Wednesday but didn’t say how many jobs it will cut. Nike said it will spend up to $250 million on termination benefits as it shifts to a new, online-focused sales model.

Oregon’s unemployment rate was 11.2% in June, among the highest points on record. Employers from nearly every industry have cut jobs as they struggle to adapt to coronavirus restrictions and reduced consumer and business demand.

— Mike Rogoway | mrogoway@oregonian.com | twitter: @rogoway | 503-294-7699

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