CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/AGENCY PARTIES - The industry ponders whether to celebrate 2001. After a difficult year, some agencies are still planning serious Christmas parties

The newspapers are full of tips for surviving the annual works do.

Alternate alcohol and water. Don't photocopy your arse. Leave before you

snog the finance director. It falls on deaf ears every year. Ask anyone

in advertising.



Whether intended for clients, staff or PR coverage, planning an adland

party requires dedication, deft budgeting, nerves of steel and an urge

to impress. Several agencies clearly have more than their fair share of

these qualities.



Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper held its bash last year in the Lapland strip club

in Mayfair. BMP DDB threw a monster for staff on the Kensington Roof

Gardens the year before. Fallon's Doctor-themed absinthe party to close

2000 has been firmly on the gossip agenda ever since. Times may have

changed drastically since then but Christmas parties are still on most

shops' agendas.



This year, Fallon has already made its mark with a second birthday party

in the agency's offices. "The main point was to thank our clients and

all the suppliers, partners and friends of Fallon for their support over

the last year," the chief executive, Robert Senior, says. "But we also

wanted to thank the people who work here."



Clearly there's also a fair amount of status to be had from putting on a

good do. Indeed, Senior goes so far to suggest that the price of not

doing a party is far greater than the cost of putting one on. M&C

Saatchi's chief executive, Moray McLennan, agrees that some parties can

be worth their value in PR. "They can help put small agencies on the

map," he says.



But what about the guest list? Senior maintains that clients can be

accommodated alongside staff, but others disagree. "Clients make people

behave well and that's not the point of a good party," Duckworth Finn

Grubb Waters' chief executive, Mickey Finn, says.



Senior, though, is unrepentant about Fallon's most senior clients

downing tequila with the staff. And he's not worried about eager

executives from other agencies mingling around them.



"We deliberately invite people we like in the industry," he says. "We

don't care if we see our competitors talking to our clients. It's an

open house."



"You'd think adland hadn't had a party for 12 months," one agency

executive at the Fallon party said - and most of the guests clearly

relished the opportunity to cut loose after a hard year. But in a year

when many shops have been forced to make redundancies, a Christmas party

could easily be deemed inappropriate. Some shops have axed the

traditional end-of-year celebrations. Most, however, are pressing on

with more subdued parties.



After a tough year such as this, they argue, staff who have laboured

long and hard deserve to be rewarded.



HOW THE TOP TEN CELEBRATED IN 2000 AND THEIR PLANS FOR 2001



By Jenny Watts and Camilla Palmer



ABBOTT MEAD VICKERS BBDO



2000 Held a fancy dress party for staff in a film studio, with dinner,

dancing and free booze all night.



2001 "We're celebrating Christmas, but in a much more modest way this

year," AMV's managing director, Cilla Snowball, says. The agency is

booked in for an evening at Madame Tussauds, fancy dress optional, with

various surprise events, disco and, of course, a free bar.



BMP DDB



2000 A Christmas bash was not on the agenda for BMP last year, as the

agency hosted a big summer event. It also pushed the boat out for the

millennium with a bash at the Kensington Roof Gardens featuring the

usual free booze, food and music and added extras such as a grotto and a

naked piano player. All staffers were given a disposable camera and the

object of the night was to take the most bizarre picture.



2001 Again, this year, there are no plans for a Christmas bash, as the

agency feels it is "inappropriate" given the climate within the

industry. "We're being a bit 'Bah, humbug' this year," BMP's PR manager,

Lucy Stirling, says.



J. WALTER THOMPSON



2000 Staff ate Christmas dinner in a huge circle bathed in the shadow of

the enormous dinosaur skeleton in the hall of the Natural History

Museum, then drank and danced all night at a free bar and disco.



2001 The party will move into the agency, reflecting a desire to scale

back on the celebrations. There will be no specific theme, but JWT

staffers will still have a good nosh-up, with DJs, a free bar and the

opportunity to dress up to the festive theme of "Christmas Past, Present

and Future".



PUBLICIS



2000 Last year's party was a Cuban-themed evening in an East London

warehouse complete with fire jugglers and acrobats.



2001 This year, Publicis admits its bash will be a more sober

affair.



"But even though there are no bonuses or rises, we want to celebrate the

year's work," Lucy Bryn-Davies, the agency's business development

director, says. The group companies are decamping to the New London

Theatre in the West End for a Viva Las Vegas-themed event.



M&C SAATCHI



2000 The infamous School Disco night at the London club Fabric was the

lucky venue playing host to hordes of M&C staff last year for a night of

no-holds-barred agency frolicking in tight shirts, pencil ties and

school trews.



2001 This year, the budget for partying has been slashed, according to

the chief executive, Moray McLennan. "The party will be in the agency

and, in a bold and imaginative move, we're theming it with Christmas. It

won't be elaborate, but we will be celebrating."



RAINEY KELLY CAMPBELL ROALFE/Y&R



2000 Matthew Kelly move over. Last year, his namesake Jim Kelly stepped

into the star's well-worn shoes for an agency version of Stars In Their

Eyes. Highlights included Tony Harrison as George Michael and Dan Thomas

uttering the immortal words: "Tonight, Jim, I'm going to be Shirley

Bassey!" Much free wine flowed with food before activities ended around

1am.



2001 RKCR/Y&R's Christmas party activities will be on a smaller scale

this year. The agency will have an informal drink at a nearby pub after

the agency review of the year meeting. "People will be happy to

contribute their Christmas spirit though," one staffer says.



SAATCHI & SAATCHI



2000 The agency congregated at the Camden Roundhouse for a massive

circus-themed party.



2001 It's a state secret. Plans for this year's party are being kept

firmly under wraps by order of Saatchis' chief executive, James Hall.

"We are definitely having one," he says.



OGILVY & MATHER



2000 Last year Ogilvy staffers were devilishly naughty at a "Heaven and

Hell" night at the nightclub Heaven. "It was quite a hoot," one staffer,

who frolicked at the free bar until 2am, remembers.



2001 This year the gang will be holding a lower-key event in the agency

with some free booze and a band to entertain the troops. "It will be

medium-level frolics," one staffer confirmed.



McCANN-ERICKSON



2000 Last year agency staff celebrated their Christmas cheer at an old

film studio in Islington. The annual general meeting turned into a

drinks party, to which clients were invited along with the agency to

partake in the free food and bar, typically stocked to the brim with

Bacardi Breezers. The partying went on from 7pm until 2am.



2001 McCann-Erickson will not be having a party this year, deeming it

inappropriate for an agency that has its headquarters in New York.

However, it will be having an internal staff party in January to

celebrate the arrival of the ex-Saatchis chief executive, Tamara

Ingram.



LOWE LINTAS



2000 Last year the Lowe crew rocked out from 9pm until 3am with a Cuban

theme at The Cross in Kings Cross. Food and booze was free, with three

music rooms catering for all tastes. Chris Thomas was spotted dancing on

a table at 3am wearing a cowboy hat and false moustache. "Endless

tequila slammers and a vodka luge meant that no-one remembered a thing,"

one party-goer guessed.



2001 This year Lowe is already recovering from a crazy night at the

club, suitably entitled "Wild!". A casino, karaoke, Elvis lookalikes

with showgirls, snake charmers and fire eaters all added to the fun,

alongside the free food and booze. "Although it's been a difficult year

all round, everyone deserves a big party," one agency staffer said.



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