THE BAR’S THE STAR: A number of large advertising agencies swear that their bars are great stress relievers for staff. Francesca Newland imbibes in a few drinking dens

You’ve had a few drinks, you’re in a good mood and with your special beer logic activated you realise it’s time to tell your boss exactly what is wrong with his or her company.

You’ve had a few drinks, you’re in a good mood and with your

special beer logic activated you realise it’s time to tell your boss

exactly what is wrong with his or her company.

The bosses cut pitiable figures as their chests get prodded and the

generous words of advice flow. For this reason it seems strange that so

many agency chiefs opt to have in-house bars, more so because most seem

foolish enough to join their staff for a drink or two.

’Because we have a lot of heavy drinkers here, and I don’t want them

wandering too far away from the office,’ is why Paul Hammersley, chief

executive of Lowe Lintas & Partners, believes having an in-house bar is

a good idea. He adds that by owning the bar you can control the quality

of the food and the prices.

Most people who work at Lowes agree that the bar is good for morale and

that it enables staff from different disciplines to mix - although the

creative clique is rumoured to be willing only to talk to the


Marcus Brown, the new-business director at Saatchi & Saatchi, also

believes bars are important because the advertising industry is so


’We are keen on finding any way we can help staff relax,’ he says.

Another reason, particularly in the case of TBWA GGT Simons Palmer, is

that the bar is an ideal place to hold informal meetings. All the

agencies seem to talk to their clients in their bars because it’s more

fun than a meeting room.

But some agencies shy away from having an in-house bar. Neither Leagas

Delaney nor HHCL & Partners offer staff an actual bar but both have

fridges stocked with free wine, beer and soft drinks dotted around the


Space and high rents is a key reason why many demur. BMP DDB doesn’t

have one because of lack of space which means staff end up going to

their local, nicknamed ’The Prince of Darkness’, because it is rough and

pretty horrible.

However, some people just don’t believe it’s a good idea. Robin Azis,

the chief executive of HHCL, remembers his days at WCRS: ’You’d go down

for a drink and then some arsehole from work would turn up and change

the conversation back to some new campaign or something.’

Others think that it’s unhealthy to spend so much time at work. Joining

your work mates at a nearby pub enables staff to leave the agency

premises to enjoy something other than sleep.


Opening hours Debatable. The agency claimed alcohol is served from 6pm

to 10pm, but the Campaign researchers were unceremoniously shown the

door at 9pm. Coffee served all day from 7.30am

Prices Bottled beer (no pints on offer) pounds 1.70, spirits pounds 1,

mixers 50p, bottle of Champagne pounds 17. Free drinks from 6pm to 7pm

on Tuesdays and Thursdays

Selection of drinks Poor. Pretty much only TBWA clients’ brands on

offer, which means unless you want a bottled beer or shot of Absolut,

you’re stuffed

Food Salty snacks. Croissants in the morning

Added entertainment Pool table, PlayStations, darts, trendy music

Barman Felix, a Britpop trendsetter, doesn’t crack a smile very often

but that may be because he has to wear a uniform

Atmosphere The bar has the cool atmosphere you would expect from the

agency chosen to run the New Labour advertising account. Modern, plenty

of seating, the kind of place people pay to go to when they feel like a

good pose.

The place was heaving because we arrived only a few hours after the

agency learned that it had won the Labour account. Free drinks were

flowing and there was a genuine party feel about the place.

The happy hour offer definitely gives the bar the edge over its rivals

in the popularity stakes. But, for all of its coolness, there was a

strong feeling of still being at work.

This must partly be because the agency’s big cheeses can’t get enough of

the place. They were out in force and not just because of the win -

apparently it’s rare to see the chief executive, Simon Clemmow, anywhere



Opening hours 12.30pm to 3pm, 5.30pm to 8pm

Prices pint of Stella pounds 1.60, pint of Heineken pounds 1.50, spirits

pounds 1, mixers 50p, bottle of Champagne pounds 14

Selection of drinks Fairly extensive, caters for most tastes (unless you

want Smirnoff)

Food Mixture of hot meals and sandwiches at lunch time. Salty snacks

Added entertainment CD-player with selection of CDs

Barman Derek has the ’don’t f*ck with me’ attitude you would expect in a

real pub, and has only had to ban one person in the bar’s history

Atmosphere Has the requisite dark, smoky feel, complete with Abba

soundtrack, to make you feel like you are in a real pub and not at


Lowe Lintas & Partners was the only agency brave enough to let the

thirsty Campaign investigators in on a Tuesday. No, the bar was not

full, though there were a couple of tables of IT support and finance


Evidence of its popularity at the tail end of the week is that on a good

Friday, the bar takes pounds 500 in two and a half hours. This is no

doubt partly because Lowes serves the cheapest drinks out of all the

bars we reviewed.

The character of the bar is heavily influenced by the burly Derek, who

takes his job very seriously (he proudly showed the Lowes ’cellar’,

which was, in fact, an impressive refrigerated room). This is a

no-frills establishment which is very in keeping with the no-nonsense,

not-too-trendy culture at Lowes - although the David Linleyesque stools

were a bit sad.

Worthy of note were the toilets. In a throwback to the 19th century they

were massive, uncomfortable, wooden thrones.


Opening hours 8am to 3pm, 5.30pm to 10pm (11pm Fridays)

Prices Pint of lager pounds 1.90, spirits pounds 1.40, mixers 60p,

bottle of Champagne pounds 25

Selection of drinks Extensive. You name it, they’ve got it

Food Breakfast and lunch available. Salty snacks

Added entertainment Arcade games, satellite TV, table football, pool


Barman Ivan (not pictured). A chippie manager who did not take kindly to

any questions. Lots of brawn - shouldn’t think too many staff misbehave

under his miserable gaze

Atmosphere Looks more like a healthclub than a pub, but this doesn’t

detract from its comfort. Staff can relax in the knowledge that their

agency has spent a lot of money supplying them with a good place to go

for a drink.

We tipped up just as the agency had been informed that it had not won

the Labour Party advertising account. This did put a dampener on


The bar was also not at its fullest as there were free drinks and food

on offer at the leaving party of the agency’s handyman, Roger, in one of

the function rooms.

Named after one of the agency’s most famous campaigns, The Pregnant Man

- despite its naff decoration - is a proper pub. The fact that it’s

situated in the Saatchi & Saatchi car park slightly detaches it from the

main building, enabling staff to pretend they are not still at work.

WCRS *****

Opening hours 8am to whenever people leave

Prices bottle of beer, glass of wine, spirit plus mixer all pounds 1.80.

Bottle of Champagne pounds 18

Selection of drinks Pretty extensive

Food Breakfast for free between 8am to 9am. Hot and cold meals available

at lunchtime

Added entertainment Karaoke (with 1,000 sample songs), arcade games,

pool table

Barman Mark, a gentle giant from South Africa. You couldn’t meet a nicer


Atmosphere Top marks. It’s relaxed, fun, informal, wild. Very difficult

to leave.

Well what a night. The Campaign researchers were so caught up in the

high spirits that prevail at the imaginatively named ’Wine Bar’, that

they missed their next appointment.

The actual bar looks good, but there are some gopping decorations

elsewhere, not least some life-size statues from Robin Wight’s private


There is a genuinely friendly atmosphere and, looking at some of the bar

tabs, it becomes obvious that the staff really take advantage of the

facilities - one creative’s tab was pounds 2,000 at the end of last


The bar has the most flexible hours out of those researched - the result

of a relaxed attitude manifest in Mark the barman. Obviously popular

with the punters, he had swarms of women hanging off every limb - and a

few blokes too. Nobody poses at this bar. They’re too busy having a good



Opening hours Monday to Wednesday 5.30pm to 8.30pm, Thursday and Friday

5.30pm to 9.30pm

Prices Pint of lager pounds 1.85, spirits pounds 1.35, mixers 60p,

bottle of Champagne pounds 18

Selection of drinks Adequate

Food Salty snacks only

Added entertainment Juke box (set at a very high volume) and what may be

a brothel across the road - compelling viewing of Rolls-Royces coming

and going

Barman Louis

Atmosphere Sophisticated.

Perhaps it’s because it’s in Chelsea, but Leo Burnett’s bar is smart and

sophisticated and it’s hard to imagine that staff ever get down and

dirty here, although they claim they do.

Burnetts is in a beautiful building and its bar is lovely to look at,

even if it is a bit small. This didn’t seem to matter as there were

surprisingly few people using the bar - even though it was a Friday.

The Core is a functional bar in that there is little added

entertainment, which is probably why a lot of attention seems focused on

the coming and goings of the ’brothel’ across the road.