While Wall Street ended the week with the Dow clawing back above the 8000 mark, the jobless number climbed by 663,000 in March. That trend will continue into April here in Chicago as JWT announced the closing of its local office today. In sixty days, this 118 year old institution will shutter the doors and reallocate work to Atlanta, Toronto and New York. If the trade press has it right, this is an office that billed over a billion dollars a year during their 70’s heyday when they boasted high profile work for Sears and the UnCola; and remember, that was three decades ago when they were privately held and industry margins were profoundly robust. But today is far different and two months from now, fifty more people will be looking for work.
All of which is decidedly sad. Particularly sad if you know the place well like I do. In the end, you don’t really miss the place, but you do miss the people.Oddly, I heard about this news after attending a lunchtime presentation by Ted “Ted from Red” Schilowitz who spoke about his revolutionary Red camera. At under $18,000 dollars and with a resolution five times what a 1080p HD TV can broadcast, this camera signals a major change in the production world. Already some significant movies and commercial productions have embraced it, including our own. And this fall, when they deliver their follow up Scarlet and Epic cameras, the entry point for filmmakers will be under $4000, including a lens package. This technology signals the democratization of film production which as Americans, we all would normally salute, but as advertising professionals we know some friends have had their lives and livelihoods thrown into uncertainty by these changes. When I talked to Tom Duff of Optimus who sponsored the presentation about the uncertainty both this kind of technology and affordable desktop editing like Final Cut on the Mac introduces, he said ” Technology can change and effect, but the skills and talent that people have will always be the determining factor. No matter the technology, here or at an agency or production co. or wherever, if you keep a creative climate and have the people who do what we do for the sheer fun of making the ads just for their own sake, we will be fine, and I totally agree, even better.” God bless him. Things will change, but in the end, the value of anything is not based on technology but on human skill. If you are creative and can deliver the goods, you will always have the potential to shine. And in a creative business, that’s all we can ask. So tonight, I feel sadness for some friends. But I don’t feel despair: in the end, talent will create value. And jobs. Those new jobs may not be what they have always been, but they will be jobs nonetheless. And thus opportunities.
So here’s a thought and a good wish to all who deal with the uncertainty tonight, particularly my friends at JWT. God bless. It will be better again. Don’t despair.