Goodway Group quietly lays off employees in ‘rounds’ in ongoing workforce reduction

Goodway Group quietly lays off employees in ‘rounds’ in ongoing workforce reduction

By Antoinette Siu  •  June 14, 2024  •

Ivy Liu

Digital media agency Goodway Group has been laying off employees across multiple teams in the past year as part of an ongoing reduction of its workforce, according to multiple people that have been terminated. It’s not clear how many have been let go this year.

The New York-based agency began letting go staffers around mid-2023 up until this year, according to a source that worked there for more than seven years. Goodway Group offers expertise in data and technology across its digital media and marketing services with some 490 staff in the U.S. and U.K., per Pitchbook.

The source mentioned this was part of a “big layoff” around last summer that affected around 40 people – they had “survived the pandemic” with no major cuts prior to that. When they asked at the time how many others were affected, the company did not specify. Those impacted received a generic email from leadership about the downsizing. The source also had to sign an agreement in order to receive severance.

“So the big layoff was a surprise,” the source told Digiday.

Goodway Group declined to comment.

In recent months, other former Goodway Group employees across marketing, design, strategic insights and customer and team success roles have been posting about their job losses on LinkedIn, citing it as part of a “reduction in workforce,” as one former staffer wrote on LinkedIn four months ago.

A former employee who worked there for around two years told Digiday that this second major layoff in 2023 happened “in several rounds” and affected about 40 people within weeks of the company’s annual summer gathering. (The company is fully remote.)

This former staffer said it seemed sudden and unexpected when they were fired this January as one of six others, especially given that their leadership previously discussed growing that department. “I wasn’t given much reasoning, just told it wasn’t performance related [and] the role was being dissolved,” the source said, adding that other departments were affected, as well.

“As they reprioritize their business objectives, I’ve seen them lose some of their best talent – which I find somewhat telling,” the source added.

The last major layoff before these was around 2017 when an estimated 80 people were fired, according to the first source. Another source that worked at Goodway for more than 10 years also added that the losses in 2017, which impacted around 10% of its employees at the time, came after the company lost a major client.

More broadly, current cutbacks are perhaps the result of agencies being exposed in weaker areas like managed services, or “working media,” explained analyst Brian Wieser. That’s been the case for many of Goodway’s peers in the last year, particularly if “they were heavily exposed to tech clients.”

These layoffs also have come as Goodway Group continued making strategic and organizational changes in recent years. Goodway Group, which now comprises five brands, originally started as a printing business in 1929. Since then, the Goodway division has been developing tech platforms and tools using automation and machine learning, while its other newer brands recently launched a retail media accelerator and made other strategic expansions to focus on brands across the marketing funnel.

Those two new divisions add to the agency’s umbrella of existing brands with marketing advisory firm Control vs. Exposed (CvE), performance marketing agency Tuff, and Goodway, its managed service media and analytics business. The company acquired Tuff and Canton Marketing Solutions, a data and media consultancy, in 2022. 

The third source described the agency’s aim at the time seemed to entail “going after clients directly” by growing these parts of the business. “But it hasn’t been profitable,” the source said. While spinning off CvE allowed Goodway to expand overseas, the company later pulled out of the Singapore location, they added.

Last January, Goodway also promoted its president Jay Friedman to CEO, tasked with “[driving] the agency’s growth [and] continued investment in its people and technology,” per its release. The company said it was focused on expanding its full-service retail media practice, including building out a retail media network offering and driving brand performance. Reps did not make Friedman available for an interview.

For independent agencies, buying up these shops can help them compete with holding companies and other established groups in the growing tech and digital media space. While Canton has worked with brands from Nokia to Staples, it has also collaborated with Walgreens Boots Alliance’s retail media. These additions may ultimately help independent agencies in building out their consultative services – especially as cookie depreciation and larger AI disruptions come.

Startup and tech advisory firm Evergence anticipates more agencies are “at risk of being disrupted” if they don’t bring a product management approach to the business, explained chairman and CEO Sean Everett.

“Times are very challenging across agency land and professional services in general,” added Rio Longacre, managing director of advertising and marketing consultancy Slalom. Longacre agreed that AI will bring more uncertainty and job losses – particularly for media planners, buyers and designers. Additionally, the holdco “buying sprees” of digital marketing and tech shops is perhaps coming to a halt after several years, with much of the M&A activity slowing down now, he explained.

“Agencies are circling the wagons to focus on their core strengths,” Longacre said. “Hiring is slow and layoffs continue. M&A activity is limited as everyone is focusing on survival and big, strategic bets are being delayed or curtailed.”

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