WCRS 1979-1999: Be who you want to be - Putting the personal aspirations of staff at the heart of its work has underpinned WCRS’s success, Paul Lawson says

Someone once asked me what constituted a typical WCRS person. Some agencies have a reputation for being peopled by ex-army types who believe the ’Jesus Christ, godammit’ approach is the only way forward. Other agencies encourage their people to dress in loose-fitting clothes, sniff incense and ’enrol’ each other while cocooned in womb-like creativity chambers.

Someone once asked me what constituted a typical WCRS person. Some

agencies have a reputation for being peopled by ex-army types who

believe the ’Jesus Christ, godammit’ approach is the only way forward.

Other agencies encourage their people to dress in loose-fitting clothes,

sniff incense and ’enrol’ each other while cocooned in womb-like

creativity chambers.



Now, WCRS folk like nothing more than a bracing romp across moorland

playing war games in the interests of management development. We too

hold empathy sessions focusing on knitting our own tofu. But I would

challenge anyone who tried to characterise a ’typical’ WCRS person.



So, I got to thinking about why no stereotype existed. Fundamentally, it

all comes down to the fact that we believe in, and hire, true

individuals.



And, just as the agency can’t be pigeon-holed, nor can its people.

Basically, we look for people who will stimulate us as a group. And, if

one wants constant stimulation, variety is, as they say, the spice of

life.



Once we’ve hired these individuals we recognise the importance of

keeping our part of the bargain, which is to make them feel fulfilled

and happy throughout their careers - even if this means helping people

to switch disciplines within the agency, supporting outside interests or

’graciously’ welcoming back former employees once they realise how much

better WCRS is than anywhere else!



At WCRS, when an individual joins a particular department, it doesn’t

mean they’re stuck there for life. Many people have found their

interests actually lie in another area. So, holding true to our beliefs,

we do everything we can to accommodate a desire to change direction.



I can think of seven people who have switched from account management

into other areas in the last two years alone. Charlie Gatsky and Laura

Jayne moved into TV production, Giles Davis into creative, Nicki Evered

into art buying, and Cameron Saunders, Harriet Jones and Russell

Mitchison into planning. (There might be an uncomfortable trend

developing in my department!) Mind you, Giles decided to come back after

a year. Maybe it’s not so bad after all.



Another example is our ex-head receptionist, Jennie Margiotta, now our

office manager. Mark Doyle, the previous reprographics executive

(photocopying bloke to you and me) is now looking after his own

portfolio of accounts as a traffic manager. Susie Moore, a student who

used to do summer work in the wine bar, and on reception, is now one of

the key account directors on Orange. And it turned out that Carlos

Queiroz, the guy who use to make the sandwiches, was a more highly

qualified accountant than our incumbent finance director. He’s now

swapped chopped cucumber for cashflow forecasts and is the newest member

of our accounts department.



The agency tries to provide as much support as it can in areas beyond

advertising. A prime example is Hazel Tiernan, a young account manager -

another ’switcher’ who started as a secretary, then transferred to new

business, prior to entering account management - who was deeply affected

by the horrific Dunblane incident. WCRS provided her with all the

facilities and resources she needed to convene a London-based group

called Action Against Handguns. This became a key lobbying platform for

the grieving parents of the murdered children. She recently left the

agency for six months of travel around the world, but says she’ll be

back in time for the start of the footie season.



Another example from the older end of the age spectrum is Richard Swaab,

one of our vice-chairmen, also known as head of strategy. He had

aspirations to set-up an ’upstream’ consultancy to provide marketing

advice in the guise of ’brand architects’. Thus was born Galileo, a

fully supported subsidiary of WCRS offering just this. Unfortunately,

its early history was slightly marred when it was pipped at the pitching

post by a competitive consultancy called Copernicus - an unfortunate

case of history repeating itself.



But it’s not just WCRS folk who’ve been given new opportunities. Our

creative and TV departments have consistently given new creative talents

their first big break. Daniel Barber’s first ads were for Orange and

BMW, the latter also providing Ashton Keiditch with his first work in

the advertising field.



I suppose one could argue that the ultimate measure of individual

fulfilment in the workplace is company loyalty. This is brought into

focus most sharply when one looks at the number of people who come back

to WCRS having left for other agencies earlier in their career. It is an

oft-quoted saying that WCRS people are only ever on loan to other

agencies.



Jonathan Rigby, one of our account directors, decided to go and be

grown-up at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. But, having found the ’sleepy

hollow’ atmosphere (his words not mine) slightly low-key, he came back a

couple of years later and was soon to be found necking pints in our wine

bar as he got progressively sweatier and over-familiar. Mind you, his

key role in the recent Camelot win is probably compensation enough for

WCRS to accommodate what I can only describe as one of the original

lager louts.



Others have tried working at places like Leagas Delaney or Saatchi &

Saatchi only to return a few years later.



However, the most prominent of our ’returners’ are Stephen Woodford and

Leon Jaume. First time around, Woodford was the account director on

Bass.



After a stint in the wilderness, as client services director at Leo

Burnett, he returned to WCRS with the same job title. Four brief years

later and he’s trampled his way to the top and is now our esteemed chief

executive.



Jaume, never a man to do things by halves, left and returned twice. The

first time he joined Mavity Gilmore (ultimately Mavity Gilmore Jaume),

and the second time became a creative director at Ogilvy & Mather. He’s

always claimed that his latest return had nothing to do with the offer

of a truckload of ’Jaumes’ (a newly defined EU currency unit) or the

lure of being joint creative director with Rooney Carruthers. No, he

just thinks the place is wonderful. And, I must say, I totally agree

with him.



Paul Lawson is client services director at WCRS.



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