Recessions | Agencies | Clients | Life | Career


I was 26 when the 1981-3 recession hit. I recall some clients cutting back on their spending but my job was safe because I was an entry level media estimator at the time. When it ended two years later I moved to another agency.

Since people like me were doing all the grunt-work and only making about $8,500 a year, our jobs were safe. I was also much too young and stupid to comprehend the impact thta this recession would have on my future career options and choices.


I was 35 when the 1990-91 recession hit. The sales declines that Domino's Pizza saw in the U.S. prompted their marketing team to fire Group 243, their U.S. agency. That prompted Domino's Pizza Canada to follow suit. The Agency and I were given notice and I started looking for another job. 

I was still too young and stupid to understand what impact these recessions would have on my (advertising) career attitude, options and choices.


I was 53 when the 2008-9 recession hit. The sales declines that my General Motors saw in the U.S. and Canada prompted them to review their agency contracts. The cuts in agency revenues prompted MacLaren McCann to lay off staff. I was given notice but I never got another job. I tried the freelance work path and fell in love with the cadence of it.

I was now old enough and smart enough to understand what was going on, but I didn’t have financial resources to make the wholesale changes needed to really profit from this recession. While I knew that “where there’s turmoil, there’s opportunity”, I didn’t have a plan that would enable me to look for opportunities.  


I’m 65 now and have been freelancing for twelve years.  The 2020 Covid 19 recession is in full swing and ad agencies around the world are in survival mode again - cutting (cost) corners any way they can. My freelance work dried up by the end of February.

My back-up plan was my investment portfolio, which dropped 26% between February 16 and March 16. Each dollar was now worth 74 cents.

I’m older and smarter now and I’ve got a plan to help me identify opportunities - and it's working well. 

I took my own advice and focused on emerging, rather than the lost, opportunities. The result is that 2020 is a banner year for me. Between March 16 and October 16 I grew my portfolio by 50%.  My 74 cents are now worth $1.13  Had I not changed my focus I’d be sitting here crying the blues, and trying to squeeze my life into a 74% budget.

For those of you who understand what’s going on, are adaptable, know how to spot opportunities in your - or a related - area of expertise, and can finance the transition, there are many positive outcomes to this, and any, recession. 

The Canadian Encyclopedia puts it like this:

“(recessions) can encourage firms to focus on productivity and the quality of their product to better compete. They can also encourage firms to look for new markets to keep their companies profitable. Recessions can encourage the creation of small entrepreneurial firms that can compete with lower costs and innovations. They can force larger companies to examine the scale of their operations and how they are managed. Some defensive companies, which remain stable during shifts in the business cycle, perform better than others during a recession. These include food producers and discount retailers — companies with products that are in stable demand. Nevertheless, overall declines in production and incomes coupled with higher unemployment make recessions a challenging time for most.”

A final word to the wise. Older agency managers have gone through this before and know how to weather these storms and come out ahead. Talk to them and learn from them. Don't text, zoom or dismiss them. There’s far more to life than the free advice available online.