Short-term gigs to remain a fixture in marketing world

When Una Herlihy posted an offer to help anyone who had been laid off from their job back in May, little did she know that she was opening the floodgates. The well-intentioned post on her LinkedIn feed drew plenty of responses from the advertising and marketing world, some from people […]

When Una Herlihy posted an offer to help anyone who had been laid off from their job back in May, little did she know that she was opening the floodgates.

The well-intentioned post on her LinkedIn feed drew plenty of responses from the advertising and marketing world, some from people she knew well, others from people she didn’t know from Adam.

Well-known in the wider marketing and advertising industry, the Kilkenny-based consultant has spent the last 15 years working as an intermediary for companies that need help sourcing an advertising or marketing agency and advising them on how to manage the subsequent relationship between the two. She had also clocked up considerable experience in adland, having worked for agencies like McCann Erickson and Irish International (now BBDO Dublin).

Back in May, Ireland was still in the throes of lockdown, and many advertising agencies were starting to emerge from a prolonged period of enforced paralysis after the advertising market went dark for much of March and April.

While most agencies rushed to embrace the Government’s pandemic employment scheme and hold on to as many staff as possible, details of layoffs started to trickle through to the industry grapevine. A few job losses here, a few contracts there not being renewed in addition to staff being put on three-day weeks. Collectively, however, they all add up.

Within days of her LinkedIn post, she noticed that the requests for help and advice were coming not just from people who had been let go from ad agencies but from across the broad spectrum of marketing service suppliers, including web development specialists, SEO experts, graphic designers, account managers, photographers, marketing and media consultants, brand strategists and UX/UI specialists.

The initial intention was to create a database of people looking for work and, hopefully, match them up with clients or companies who were looking for help with marketing-related projects or, in some cases, full-time staff. She called it ‘The List’. Within weeks, however, her pet project had acquired a life of its own and the number of people on the list mushroomed to over 100. She was soon joined by Peter McPartlin, the former CEO of Today FM and a media agency veteran, who lent his considerable expertise and knowledge of the marketing universe to the project.

“I put the post up on LinkedIn and I expected that some art directors and copywriters would get in touch and I would try to help out in any way I could by listening out for opportunities and putting these people in front of those opportunities. But I totally underestimated what would happen,” Herlihy recalls.

Now, nearly five months on, ‘The List’ has been rebranded as ‘The Indie List’ and over 400 people have joined it while the initial Excel spreadsheet of contacts has morphed into a fully functional website where people and clients, including some agencies funnily enough, can sign up and hopefully be matched with the right talent.

Coming at a time of profound economic uncertainty and lack of visibility in the wider marketing and advertising and media sectors, it has provided a valuable service to the many people who have lost jobs over the past seven months. With employment supports set to be withdrawn early 2021, it is entirely conceivable that the list will continue to swell as more layoffs are expected over the coming months.

But the success of ‘The Indie List’ to date raises some interesting questions about the future of work in the advertising and marketing industry and whether or not agencies and marketing departments will be staffed by anywhere near the amount of bodies they have now.

If past recessions are anything to go by, many marketers will be focusing their resources on smaller, more measurable short-term and tactical initiatives aimed at delivering quick gains.

While this is not good for long-term brand building, the reality is performance for many companies will be judged by sales growth and market share for the foreseeable future.

Short-termism, however, also means that companies and indeed agencies have the opportunity to tweak their business models and, in particular, their staff costs which in a typical agency can amount to up to 80pc of turnover.

What the experiment also shows is that there is another way of doing things – not just for advertisers but agencies too.

While it might seem like the so-called gig economy is slowly extending its tentacles into the world of advertising and marketing, the day when it comes to fully enveloping it is still a long way off.

In the meantime, however, short-term project work is here to stay.



EirGrid, the company which manages the country’s electricity grid, has launched a new campaign which encourages people to step up to tackle climate change by doing their bit for the planet.

Created by BBDO Dublin, and produced by Butter, the campaign also highlights EirGrid’s role in tackling climate change with its commitment to ensure that by 2030, 30pc of all Ireland’s electricity requirements will be derived from sustainable sources.



The 2020 All Ireland Marketing Awards, which are sponsored by INM and organised by the Marketing Institute of Ireland, will be live-streamed on Friday, October 16 at 3pm.

The highlight of the annual marketing calendar, a total of 90 finalists spread over 18 different categories were judged over the past two weeks and RTÉ’s Brian Dobson will act as MC on the day. The awards are free to view but advance registration is necessary.

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