The US: New York Giants

They have their own edit suites, boardrooms seat 80 people and colleagues in the same office talk via webcam. US admen take Mark Tungate inside two of Manhattan's biggest agencies.


Robert Rasmussen, the creative director of JWT, is careful to avoid giving stressed-out Brits the idea that working for a Manhattan advertising agency is all about watching movies, playing Ping-Pong and drinking beer. Except, of course, for the times he mentions movies, Ping-Pong and beer.

"We work hard, so we try to find space in the day to relax," he says. "A lot of our socialising goes on around the Ping-Pong table ... There's a bar there, too."

We should point out that Rasmussen is talking here about the end of the day. He says Manhattan is so large and frenetic that if people venture out into it after work, it's usually to do something other than socialise with their co-workers. So rather than pop to the pub around the corner, London-style, they get together at the agency. "In any case, there aren't many neighbourhood bars in Manhattan. They tend to be dressier places.

So we can have a beer here. We have fridges by our desks." During the day, Rasmussen also runs regular movie screenings in his office, so the creative team can check out new directors and other inspirational material. "People are always dropping by the office. I also communicate with my co-workers through (Apple's webcam service) iSight. The agency is spread over several floors so you can't always quickly go and see someone."

But Rasmussen tries to get out of his office on the seventh floor as often as possible. "You'll see me on the fourth, the second ... all over. I think we've gotten better at working together as an agency and as an industry. The departments are much more closely integrated than they used to be."

A facelift of the JWT building - in keeping with its "let's change our 100-year-old brand name" repositioning - will make it even more open-plan.

The traditional structure of large New York agencies, with departments located on individual floors, seems to be dissolving. Similarly, Rasmussen believes the old New York game of establishing an employee's status by the number of windows in their office is strictly "old school". "Obviously, some people have bigger spaces than others, depending on the sort of work they do, but I think interior design has gone beyond that," he says.

He says that the best thing about working for JWT (the biggest agency in the US) is the resources available. "Right here in the building we have edit suites, 3-D animators, photographers, instruments ... we can record music and shoot packaging. When we're pitching for a project, we can take it as close as possible to completion."

Rasmussen's working hours vary. "This week I had meetings at 8.30am and 10am, and I was one minute early for each of them," he says. "At the same time, I sometimes end up working until ten at night." He uses a webcam to communicate with his colleagues when he's at home, too. "We work so hard that if you didn't let work and home merge a little, you'd spend all your life at the office."

THE MEDIA AGENCY - Universal McCann

"It's funny you should ask that," Murray Dudgeon, the chief opera-ting officer of Universal McCann Worldwide, says, "because right now, I am gazing out of a four-window corner office, watching the sun rise over the Empire State building."

Dudgeon is responding to the question about whether office size equals status. If it does, he's clearly got it made. Dudgeon no longer works full-time in Manhattan - but he lived there for five years and still commutes regularly to the city that never sleeps. And nor does Dudgeon, at the moment, because he has jet-lag and is talking to me at 7.45am.

So what are the great things about working in New York, as opposed to London? Transport is one. "In New York it's terribly fast and efficient, which makes mornings and evenings less stressful," he says. "There is a surprisingly strong commuter mentality here. Sometimes I think Londoners must be crazy, because when I walk around the corridors here at 7pm, the place is pretty empty. People don't arrive noticeably earlier in the mornings, either. It's about working more efficiently while you're here."

So does that mean there are no raucous nights in the bar after work? Dudgeon says: "Oh, I think people still get together. Obviously those who live in the suburbs with their 2.4 children only stay for the one, but the nice thing about New York is that if you stay longer you never have to worry about waiting ages for a train or getting mugged at the other end."

So much for the city's violent reputation: but what about the "all work, no play" cliche? "One thing you notice is a different attitude to the working lunch. Here it really is a lunch hour, as opposed to a couple of hours. You sit down, order your mineral water, and get straight on to the subject at hand. And as everything tends to be centred on mid-town Manhattan, it doesn't take you ages to get back to the office."

The main thing that strikes the average Brit in Manhattan is the sense of scale. "The scale of the market is awesome," Dudgeon says. "You come here and suddenly find yourself pitching for an account worth half a billion dollars." The offices are bigger, too. More than 300 people work in Universal McCann's New York office. Organising meetings takes time, because you can't just wander down a corridor and stick your head round somebody's door. "The boardroom has been specifically designed to seat about 80 people," Dudgeon says.

He agrees that, in such an environment, status takes on an exaggerated importance. "There are a lot of senior vice-presidents and executive vice-presidents - more on the agency side than on the client side, interestingly enough." But this concern with status has an unexpected upside. "They really respect age here. In the UK, if you're over a certain age they tend to think of you as an old fart. In the US, experience is highly valued."