CAMPAIGN REPORT ON CHOOSING AN AGENCY: The feng shui audit - Forget fancy lunch dates and schmoozing clients, agencies need to get their yin, yang, chi and ming tang sorted out if they want to be successful Consultant Robert Gray tests the vibes in the re

Most people are familiar with the expression, ’you never get a second chance to make a first impression’. Companies are increasingly viewing their offices as crucial to their success - with agencies particularly keen to present the right image to clients and prospective clients. Having had little connection with the advertising industry, I was fortunate to be able to take an unbiased first look at the reception areas of four agencies.

Most people are familiar with the expression, ’you never get a

second chance to make a first impression’. Companies are increasingly

viewing their offices as crucial to their success - with agencies

particularly keen to present the right image to clients and prospective

clients. Having had little connection with the advertising industry, I

was fortunate to be able to take an unbiased first look at the reception

areas of four agencies.

My task was to visit each reception to see if I could form an impression

of the business from a Feng Shui perspective. Overall first impressions

come from the locality, the building, the entrance and, finally, the

reception itself. Within the reception, impressions can be broken down

into component parts such as lighting, colour, form and materials.

It should be taken into account that the following are not consultations

as no account has been taken of individual business issues and

objectives but, instead, give a general impression of Banks Hoggins



Banks Hoggins O’Shea occupies the first three floors of a six-storey

building in Baker Street. Once a tired 60s building, the modernised

premises boast a substantial frontage - part-glazed and part-white stone

- on which is clearly mounted the building’s number in large silver

bloc, making it blissfully easy for my taxi-driver to find. I was

directed to the first floor by the concierge. At the top of the stairs

is a large display of Peace Lilies backed by a view of a beautiful tree,

providing a pleasing antidote to the pollution of the West End.

Entering the reception, visitors pass through large wooden doors,

permanently open in a welcoming fashion. The entrance faces south which

is excellent for gaining recognition. The wall immediately opposite is

slightly textured in a rich terracotta colour, with the company name

illuminated with ceiling spotlights. Although not all of the

triple-barrelled name was legible, due to the direction of the lights

and the subtle colouring of the type, this could be easily rectified by

redirecting one or two spotlights. A sloping wall leads the visitor

toward the reception desk which is built into the wall. On entering the

main reception space, I was immediately struck by the light, refreshing

and clear atmosphere. The walls are painted in vivid blocks of colour,

including golden yellow, terracotta and deep marine blue. The ceilings

and floors are tiled white, giving the spacious, airy feel of a

Mediterranean villa. The reception desk has a wooden veneer, is

uncluttered and has a warmth usually absent from ’minimalist’


At the end of the room, glass doors lead to an open terrace full of


Natural light substantially enlivens the space and enhances its vibrant


Ken Hoggins, the creative director, says he wants the interior to give a

friendly yet professional ’switched on’ impression of the company.

In short, this free-flowing, uncluttered space, with its bright warm

colours and masses of natural light suggests that the company is clear

thinking, organised, efficient - and very creative.


WCRS is in Golden Square, London. It is generally seen as auspicious to

have an open flat piece of land in front of a building (a ming tang) in

order for the chi (energy) to be contained before entering the building.

WCRS benefits in this way with a beautiful square with flowers and


The agency occupies the whole building - a substantial multi-storey

white stone affair with a huge arched glazed entrance spanning two

floors. This provides a wide ’mouth’ through which the sun’s light and

energy can pour in, positively affecting the occupants. The company name

is written on the glazed facade which, depending on where you stand, is

not easily visible due to reflections from coloured glass.

Once inside, visitors are led to a substantial, curved wooden reception

desk, favourably positioned to the side, rather than confrontationaly

ahead. It is interesting that the company manages to divide what is

essentially one open-plan working reception area into two distinct

spaces in Feng Shui terms, one yin and one more yang, giving


The initial entrance area is made more yang (active) by the substantial

amount of daylight coming through the doors, the light-coloured stone

flooring, the polished marble wall housing two lifts with metal doors

and the white ceiling. Together, this causes the energy to move around

quickly and makes this area active and vibrant.

Beyond the desk, one enters a more yin-like space with subdued lighting,

carpets and comfortable sofas arranged around a table with a floral


The soft furnishings and lower light levels, as well as the extensive

use of yellow, all help to provide a relaxing ambience. In keeping with

this ’softer’ area, a large circular yellow ’pod’ houses a meeting room

and catering point on the inside, plus two small TV screens showing the

company’s ads. The sound is muted, however, so as not to detract from

informal meetings in the lounge.

I would suggest glazing the top section of the pod to allow natural

light into the meeting room to provide a lighter brighter space. The

head of marketing, Amy Smith, says she wants clients and visitors to

feel comfortable and relaxed and that the aim of the reception area was

to emphasise the company’s philosophy of a collaborative approach to

working with clients.

Broadly speaking I feel that the layout and design of the elements

within the space all help to support this aim.


BMP DDB’s offices, at Bishops Bridge Road, near Paddington Station are

away from the hustle and bustle of the heart of pedestrian London.

The building was built as the headquarters of Great Western Railways and

is formidable and imposing.

Ever-narrowing steps ascend to a grand silver-encased revolving


This funnel-like effect is further enhanced by a curved glazed wall with

the company name emblazoned in gold and black lettering. From a Feng

Shui perspective, the entrance is very important and is referred to as

the ’mouth of chi’, the point where most of the energy enters the


It is particularly favourable where the door is elevated, so BMP’s

entrance scores highly.

Once through the door, I was slightly confused. A blank wall gives no

indication of where to go next. In order to ensure that visitors are

relaxed, a simple direction sign would make all the difference.

Following the staircase, which I realised was the only way I could go, I

was led to the reception. The curved desk with its warm wooden colouring

is well positioned in a non-confrontational side-on spot.

The predominant colours in the space are light grey and dusky red. The

walls, staircase, banisters and columns are all light grey and the

substantial ’members club-style’ lounge seats are red. The company is

about to undergo a refurbishment to reflect its change of company

colours from grey and red to grey and yellow.

Red is the most yang (energetic) of colours, representing the fire

elements of fame and recognition, and adds vibrancy to the pale grey.

Yellow, depending on the hue, represents the earth element, and is more

likely to provide a supportive environment, enhancing existing clients


Yellow will also increase the subdued feeling of the environment. The

predominance of grey represents the metal element which symbolises

organisation, leadership and respect. Behind the reception, a

multi-screen display plays back the ads of the company’s clients. This

demonstrates their success but, unfortunately, the constant flickering

of the screen is inauspicious when associated with the life-blood of the


In summary, the combination of history, stature and grandeur of the

building, the subdued lighting and the predominance of grey, metal and

wood suggest a well-established, solid company. The space was

reminiscent of an airport lounge for first-class passengers. The

interior was formal but relaxing.


TBWA GGT Simons Palmer occupies a large 60s building on Whitfield Street

and its offices have recently been refurbished - with almost the entire

ground floor made open-plan. The architect, Barr Gazetas, has done a

terrific job of modernising the building’s entrance with elegant white

circular columns supporting a balustrade on which the company’s name is

mounted. Three semi-circular steps lead up to elevated double glazed


On entering the reception, my eye was immediately drawn across a yellow

strip of vinyl flooring to a bright yellow wall opposite, displaying

framed logos of the company’s clients. This ’wall of fame’ is

illuminated by halogen spotlights reflecting good Feng Shui in the

recognition/fame area. I was led to a long reception desk to the right,

backed by a deep red wall, which grabs the attention.

Having signed in, I turned round and saw the full extent of the

remaining space. A kaleidoscope of colour hits the eyes with extremely

vibrant reds and yellows dominating. Soft seating offers an informal

meeting space and the waiting area is also exceptionally bright, with

red, orange, yellow and pink lounge chairs. This might sound a bit over

the top but the expanse is then cooled and balanced by the central

feature - a long curved bar.

Other balancing factors are white walls, cream ceiling and earthy

parquet flooring which is an original feature. Behind the bar is another

more discrete soft seating area which is useful for meetings as well as

providing a playground to stimulate creativity. This contains a billiard

table, dartboard, Sony playstations and internet workstation.

Karen Boardman, new-business director, says the company’s aim is to

create a buzzy, fun reception area which crossed the boundaries between

business and social life for staff and clients (the bar is open until

9pm). I would say that the new environment certainly supports the

company’s objectives. It is bright, light and refreshing and, despite

its social ambience, I found it easy to relax due to the informality. I

found it invigorating but not overpowering and could have happily stayed

there longer. It suggested to me that the company is modern, energetic

but also relaxed and informal.

Robert Gray is a founding partner in the Feng Shui Academy which offers

a comprehensive consultancy service, tel: 07071 228080.


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