Feature

On the Creative Floor: M&C Saatchi

The agency's ECD, Graham Fink, takes us across the fake turf and inside the sheds on a tour of his creative department.

On the Creative Floor: M&C Saatchi
On the Creative Floor: M&C Saatchi

When I joined M&C Saatchi five-and-a-half years ago, the creative department was on the fifth floor. Way below us on the ground floor, the digital guys sat around a couple of Macs, bunched together like sardines. Although my knowledge of digital in those days was limited, I sensed that we should all be working as one.

This took some time to make happen but, eventually, we all moved on to the first floor. This put creativity at the heart of the agency as, geographically, everything centres around it.

I didn't want individual offices but neither did I want completely open plan. Rather a mixture of each, plus nooks and crannies where people could get together and chat. For this purpose, a series of sheds were built along with an editing suite so we could experiment quietly. We also built a large meeting room with glass doors so clients could watch all the fun while sitting in creative presentations.

I laid artificial grass on this floor, so clients would be shocked by the static electricity and keep the meetings buzzy (OK, OK, the static electricity was a by-product of the artificial grass and not something I planned. However, it's funny watching clients being electrocuted!). I remember Jeremy Sinclair coming down halfway through the building work. He stood on the grass with a giant blackboard along one side and said: " You've gone completely mad, Graham." However, it's a tribute to Jeremy that he's always given me enormous support and let me do my own thing.

It was important that everyone had a laptop rather than a desktop Mac. Our financial director took a lot of persuading, but I made a pact with him that if anyone lost one, they would have to pay the first £500 of replacing it. To date, not one has been lost.

Talking of budgets, to cut down on cost, I said NO to the usual dull-looking office furniture and went to an auction in Lots Road instead. I bid on sofas, chairs and tables until I had what I needed. Then I bought everyone a cheap Ikea desk for £19.99 and ran a competition to see who could decorate theirs best. Some covered them in fur, comics, Lego or plaster of Paris.

Central to the floor is the art buying department with thousands of books.

I think it's fine to look at art and photography online but, to my mind, there's nothing that can give you the same experience as holding a book and leafing through it.

I like having art around and quite a few in the department paint or draw and create books and stories. Some put their artwork up along with their ad scamps.

I don't mind mess as long as it's art directed mess.

The ability to move things around without cost was an important part of the design. I think it's important that a floor can keep evolving. We might, for instance, hang strips of coloured plastic up to create a new area. Teams have the option to sit in different places or move desks. Sharing ideas with others is crucial and the younger teams have come on leaps and bounds since we moved down here.

Noise is one of the biggest problems encountered, but if you want a buzz, you need kinetics. I think most of the teams have got used to it. Anyway, a few like the attention of wearing noise-reduction headphones.

As for digital vs traditional, eventually we just folded into one department. I don't really like all the labels. We are all just trying to come up with good ideas. It's so much simpler that way. We have the digital hub/production on our floor, too, and it's a fantastic way for us all to get our hands dirty and learn how to actually make work interactive. We've got some brilliant Flash designers who have good ideas and are constantly improving the work as we go along. It's a very buzzy floor (even without the shocks).

We did at one stage have an inflatable office, which took pride of place on the floor. It was held up by bamboo sticks and had a white hi-tech duvet inside. It looked great. A few weeks later, one of the creatives had sex in it.

No-one ever dared go back in there again.

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