The newspapers are full of tips for surviving the annual works do.
Alternate alcohol and water. Don't photocopy your arse. Leave before you
snog the finance director. It falls on deaf ears every year. Ask anyone
Whether intended for clients, staff or PR coverage, planning an adland
party requires dedication, deft budgeting, nerves of steel and an urge
to impress. Several agencies clearly have more than their fair share of
Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper held its bash last year in the Lapland strip club
in Mayfair. BMP DDB threw a monster for staff on the Kensington Roof
Gardens the year before. Fallon's Doctor-themed absinthe party to close
2000 has been firmly on the gossip agenda ever since. Times may have
changed drastically since then but Christmas parties are still on most
This year, Fallon has already made its mark with a second birthday party
in the agency's offices. "The main point was to thank our clients and
all the suppliers, partners and friends of Fallon for their support over
the last year," the chief executive, Robert Senior, says. "But we also
wanted to thank the people who work here."
Clearly there's also a fair amount of status to be had from putting on a
good do. Indeed, Senior goes so far to suggest that the price of not
doing a party is far greater than the cost of putting one on. M&C
Saatchi's chief executive, Moray McLennan, agrees that some parties can
be worth their value in PR. "They can help put small agencies on the
map," he says.
But what about the guest list? Senior maintains that clients can be
accommodated alongside staff, but others disagree. "Clients make people
behave well and that's not the point of a good party," Duckworth Finn
Grubb Waters' chief executive, Mickey Finn, says.
Senior, though, is unrepentant about Fallon's most senior clients
downing tequila with the staff. And he's not worried about eager
executives from other agencies mingling around them.
"We deliberately invite people we like in the industry," he says. "We
don't care if we see our competitors talking to our clients. It's an
"You'd think adland hadn't had a party for 12 months," one agency
executive at the Fallon party said - and most of the guests clearly
relished the opportunity to cut loose after a hard year. But in a year
when many shops have been forced to make redundancies, a Christmas party
could easily be deemed inappropriate. Some shops have axed the
traditional end-of-year celebrations. Most, however, are pressing on
with more subdued parties.
After a tough year such as this, they argue, staff who have laboured
long and hard deserve to be rewarded.
HOW THE TOP TEN CELEBRATED IN 2000 AND THEIR PLANS FOR 2001
By Jenny Watts and Camilla Palmer
ABBOTT MEAD VICKERS BBDO
2000 Held a fancy dress party for staff in a film studio, with dinner,
dancing and free booze all night.
2001 "We're celebrating Christmas, but in a much more modest way this
year," AMV's managing director, Cilla Snowball, says. The agency is
booked in for an evening at Madame Tussauds, fancy dress optional, with
various surprise events, disco and, of course, a free bar.
2000 A Christmas bash was not on the agenda for BMP last year, as the
agency hosted a big summer event. It also pushed the boat out for the
millennium with a bash at the Kensington Roof Gardens featuring the
usual free booze, food and music and added extras such as a grotto and a
naked piano player. All staffers were given a disposable camera and the
object of the night was to take the most bizarre picture.
2001 Again, this year, there are no plans for a Christmas bash, as the
agency feels it is "inappropriate" given the climate within the
industry. "We're being a bit 'Bah, humbug' this year," BMP's PR manager,
Lucy Stirling, says.
J. WALTER THOMPSON
2000 Staff ate Christmas dinner in a huge circle bathed in the shadow of
the enormous dinosaur skeleton in the hall of the Natural History
Museum, then drank and danced all night at a free bar and disco.
2001 The party will move into the agency, reflecting a desire to scale
back on the celebrations. There will be no specific theme, but JWT
staffers will still have a good nosh-up, with DJs, a free bar and the
opportunity to dress up to the festive theme of "Christmas Past, Present
2000 Last year's party was a Cuban-themed evening in an East London
warehouse complete with fire jugglers and acrobats.
2001 This year, Publicis admits its bash will be a more sober
"But even though there are no bonuses or rises, we want to celebrate the
year's work," Lucy Bryn-Davies, the agency's business development
director, says. The group companies are decamping to the New London
Theatre in the West End for a Viva Las Vegas-themed event.
2000 The infamous School Disco night at the London club Fabric was the
lucky venue playing host to hordes of M&C staff last year for a night of
no-holds-barred agency frolicking in tight shirts, pencil ties and
2001 This year, the budget for partying has been slashed, according to
the chief executive, Moray McLennan. "The party will be in the agency
and, in a bold and imaginative move, we're theming it with Christmas. It
won't be elaborate, but we will be celebrating."
RAINEY KELLY CAMPBELL ROALFE/Y&R
2000 Matthew Kelly move over. Last year, his namesake Jim Kelly stepped
into the star's well-worn shoes for an agency version of Stars In Their
Eyes. Highlights included Tony Harrison as George Michael and Dan Thomas
uttering the immortal words: "Tonight, Jim, I'm going to be Shirley
Bassey!" Much free wine flowed with food before activities ended around
2001 RKCR/Y&R's Christmas party activities will be on a smaller scale
this year. The agency will have an informal drink at a nearby pub after
the agency review of the year meeting. "People will be happy to
contribute their Christmas spirit though," one staffer says.
SAATCHI & SAATCHI
2000 The agency congregated at the Camden Roundhouse for a massive
2001 It's a state secret. Plans for this year's party are being kept
firmly under wraps by order of Saatchis' chief executive, James Hall.
"We are definitely having one," he says.
OGILVY & MATHER
2000 Last year Ogilvy staffers were devilishly naughty at a "Heaven and
Hell" night at the nightclub Heaven. "It was quite a hoot," one staffer,
who frolicked at the free bar until 2am, remembers.
2001 This year the gang will be holding a lower-key event in the agency
with some free booze and a band to entertain the troops. "It will be
medium-level frolics," one staffer confirmed.
2000 Last year agency staff celebrated their Christmas cheer at an old
film studio in Islington. The annual general meeting turned into a
drinks party, to which clients were invited along with the agency to
partake in the free food and bar, typically stocked to the brim with
Bacardi Breezers. The partying went on from 7pm until 2am.
2001 McCann-Erickson will not be having a party this year, deeming it
inappropriate for an agency that has its headquarters in New York.
However, it will be having an internal staff party in January to
celebrate the arrival of the ex-Saatchis chief executive, Tamara
2000 Last year the Lowe crew rocked out from 9pm until 3am with a Cuban
theme at The Cross in Kings Cross. Food and booze was free, with three
music rooms catering for all tastes. Chris Thomas was spotted dancing on
a table at 3am wearing a cowboy hat and false moustache. "Endless
tequila slammers and a vodka luge meant that no-one remembered a thing,"
one party-goer guessed.
2001 This year Lowe is already recovering from a crazy night at the
club, suitably entitled "Wild!". A casino, karaoke, Elvis lookalikes
with showgirls, snake charmers and fire eaters all added to the fun,
alongside the free food and booze. "Although it's been a difficult year
all round, everyone deserves a big party," one agency staffer said.