How this Facebook group is a lifeline for anxious agency employees

This is an extraordinarily difficult time for Canada’s agency community and its thousands of employees, with projects either postponed or cancelled outright as a result of the COVID crisis and multiple shops making layoffs.

But where people might ordinarily commiserate at their local pub or start booking coffee meetings to find their next opportunity, the cruel irony of this crisis is that it has also put an end to in-person interaction.

Over on Facebook, however, the Toronto Ad Jobs & Networking Group is a hive of activity, with 218 new posts since March 11. The three-year-old group has become a daily stop for some job-seekers, with multiple postings each day.

Group founder Gerard Adderley says that he conducts a daily review of LinkedIn to find jobs. “I’ve been unemployed four times in my career [and] it’s a feeling of panic and dread,” he says. “If I can help change that for one person, then I’m thrilled.”

The group also offers plenty of lighthearted distractions for home-bound agency employees: A link to a 1970s Q&A with legendary creative Bill Bernbach, a thread devoted to personal creative work that members are revisiting, and a veritable smorgasbord of recipe links.

There’s a real feeling of togetherness within the group, which is exactly what Adderley was striving for when he launched it in 2017. “One of the things that differentiates Toronto from the rest of the groups is that I’ve very much tried to foster a sense of community, as well as encourage conversation,” he says.

Adderley, who by day is creative director at Toronto’s Healthwise CRG, serves as the group’s head administrator, with Junction Collective partner Jennifer Morozowhich and CORE Communications and Marketing owner Cory Pelletier as his co-admins.

For all of the misgivings around Facebook, the platform has also become something of a lifeline during the new era of social distancing. According to a recent report in The Guardian, more than 300 local community groups have been established on the platform in the U.K. alone during the current crisis, while a recent Wired story was headlined “Amid social distancing, neighbours mobilize over Facebook.”

The Toronto Ad Jobs & Networking Group added 214 new members between March 11 and April 8. With 8,850 members, it is by far the largest of three such groups currently operating in Canada. A Vancouver group led by Elizabeth Whalen and Amanda Lynn Ballard has about 900 members.

Adderley hopes to start similar groups in Montreal and Calgary, but admits that finding admins is a challenge.

His main focus right now is on keeping things upbeat. “I’m trying to keep things light in the group and that’s the tone I’m trying to put out there,” he says. “We’re all at home, we’re all in this together. Conversations can occasionally get a little spicy, but I’m not seeing any of that right now. People are genuinely at the ready to help—you just need to ask and a helping hand is there.”

Chris Powell