It’s been a week in which it’s been difficult to have any serious
perspective about the advertising industry. It was not a time for
listening to grown men asking: ‘Why don’t you love us as much as you
A pleasure, then, to have finally made it to St Luke’s in the old Wolff
Olins building in Euston. The single best thing about it was how unlike
an advertising agency it felt last Thursday and not just because of the
magnificent Italian food (see Diary).
There was a refreshing lack of the kind of macho posturing that is still
so prevalent in many London agencies. The atmosphere was not charged
with testosterone, sexual tension or duelling egos. There wasn’t even
the usual chain of deference, the pandering to the whims of the
immediate boss that so inhibits day-to-day business life. At first, it
felt odd - very odd.
The staff at St Luke’s - a workers’ co-operative - have all helped
design its feel and look, so I guess they must like it. Everyone comes
in and logs on to any of the many computers which are scattered almost
randomly all over the building. They access their personal work folders,
to which other people do not have access privileges. Meetings are held,
in the open, all over the place. No-one has any personal space, beyond
individual lockers in the basement.
This is my worst nightmare come true. Where would I store all your
rants? The answer would be ‘the Diary room’. Each St Luke’s client gets
its own room, ergo: the Carlsberg-Tetley room, the Observer room,
Midland, Ikea etc. There, all you could possibly ever wish to know about
flat-pack furniture construction can be found in one place. Each has the
feel of a mini-library; you have the sense of a lot of work getting done
without the usual distraction of the re-enactment of the cricket World
Cup final with scrunched-up bits of paper.
The best reason for having such spaces, though, is that clients like
them. They drop in, get attached to them. One ex-client walked in off
the street and was dismayed to find her room was no longer hers. No fee,
no room. The Rock the Vote people, who were much in evidence, were
particularly attracted to this.
Meanwhile, the work (Midland, Radio 1, Boots cosmetics) and recent
business performance (Ikea and Rock the Vote) are better than at any
time when the agency was Chiat Day. There is a lot of non-advertising
consultancy going on too. It felt like fun. It felt young and
stimulating. There was a busy buzz about the place. I think the
achievement of Andy Law and the rest of the staff over the past year -
in resisting Omnicom, evolving into St Luke’s, developing the co-
operative, and keeping nearly all staff and clients - is considerable.
Sod’s law says I’ll now get anonymous letters from employees saying they
hate it. But I’d be surprised.