CLOSE-UP: PERSPECTIVE; Why the St Luke’s philosophy works well for everyone

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 should?’

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

should?’



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.



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