LIFESTYLE: THE BEST PLACES TO WORK IN ADVERTISING AND MEDIA - You’ve never had it so good - not only do agencies pay their staff ridiculous salaries, but they also throw in any number of unnecessary perks. Richard Cook hunts out the bounty in adla

So it has come to this. No longer it seems, in adland at least, is virtue its own reward. There’s cash, of course, and there always will be, but nowadays even brass in pocket doesn’t always cut it.

So it has come to this. No longer it seems, in adland at least, is

virtue its own reward. There’s cash, of course, and there always will

be, but nowadays even brass in pocket doesn’t always cut it.

What staff increasingly desire are those little extras that make office

life worth living. They want corporate croissants in the morning,

perhaps a session down the subsidised gym at lunchtime, before wriggling

into their replica footie kit after work to take on their colleagues on

the five-a-side pitch. Naturally, they want the kit and pitch to be

provided by a beneficent employer.

Afterwards, they might fancy retiring to the company’s bar to ease away

the stresses of the working day, in the secure knowledge, of course,

that they are paying considerably less for the privilege than those poor

unfortunates jostling for elbow room at the Dog and Duck round the


So are today’s ad industry staff cosseted? Perhaps they’d like to think

about that in the cab the agency has so generously provided to take them

home at the end of a long evening.

Sometimes it’s so difficult to snatch a moment for yourself in the

expanse of oiled-beech, ergonomically designed, state-of-the-art, open-

plan acres that this season are masquerading as office space. Luxurious?

Let’s just say that if there were any more expanses of stripped wood in

there the place could double up as a sauna.

Office life might not, in reality, be like that - or not all the time

anyway - but employers have long since woken up to the fact that keeping

good employees requires almost as much loving care and attention as

retaining good clients.

Unfortunately, not every company has the resources to be as


The big multinationals, for instance, have a head start when it comes to

the grown-up benefits such as share options, pension plans and the


Last month Cordiant, for example, announced details of the planned

Saatchi/Bates demerger. Unusually, these plans included a scheme whereby

the top 70 managers in each company are able to invest in performance-

related incentive schemes. If the maximum targets are met, and the share

price doubles in the next three years - which is not wildly unrealistic

- then an initial investment of pounds 50,000 would be worth a massive

pounds 800,000.

A total of 140 staff would be eligible for the scheme, which is clearly

never going to be on offer at smaller companies, where the risks and

potential rewards tend not unnaturally to be concentrated in just a few


But big companies are also likely to be more intransigent about the

little things, more worried about toeing the line with New York or

Singapore, or whoever is providing the ideal model. Smaller companies

can be less regimented, more flexible.

’To be honest, we find ourselves making up our policy on benefits as we

go along,’ the New PHD partner, Nick Horswell, explains. ’So we don’t

have a formal policy on sabbaticals, for instance, because we’ve never

had to think about it, whereas we do have both a women’s and men’s

football team because staff wanted that.’

In fact, workers at New PHD are in an enviable position - they have a

bar, a gym with its own pool table and pinball machine, free breakfast

until nine (see, perks can help productivity) as well as great-looking

offices, BUPA membership and a pension scheme.

And, increasingly, it’s the personal touches - the things that make

employees really feel wanted - that are becoming the most popular.

’As far as the major perks go, we find that employees would rather have

the cash,’ the Mediapolis managing director, Bob Offen, says. ’So only

about five people among the 60-plus staff who work here run a company

car. They have the choice, but they would rather have the cash.’

There’s no bar at Mediapolis either, and no canteen, but staff stay at

the company for an average of more than five years. It must have

something to do with the free Easter eggs, fresh doughnuts each week,

and a busy agency social life that is taken very seriously.

’Increasingly, staff do want to feel that they are appreciated and not

merely being bribed to stay,’ Offen explains.

International conferences for the whole company is another popular perk

for media businesses. But, it should be said, they are considerably less

popular with the taxman.

’I think the most important perks or benefits are the ones that help

establish the culture of your office,’ the MGM partner, Colin Gottlieb,

adds. ’And often that’s just the little things. We don’t make people

negotiate for their pay reviews for example - that happens automatically

- and generally we try to make it seem that it’s more a club than an

institution. It’s easy for outsiders to look at companies such as Rainey

Kelly Campbell Roalfe or St Luke’s and see that there’s a distinct

culture about them, and that’s what we try for as well.’

One indication of how successfully companies are translating promises

into performance is the most transparent of all - the space that staff

work in.

’If you think about the way you view your own home, and how you feel if

that is well decorated and nicely located, it becomes clear that it’s

more than just a place to eat and rest and, in many ways, it’s the same

with offices,’ the Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO managing director, Andrew

Robertson, points out. ’If people come into an environment where they

feel comfortable, then of course they will be more creative and


The evidence that this point is gaining increasing currency is all

around us. AMV moves into its new offices next year, while TBWA Simons

Palmer is adding the finishing touches to its own new building.

Elsewhere, M&C Saatchi and WCRS have both recently become ensconced in

new offices in Golden Square, and the likes of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Leo

Burnett and CDP have all undertaken similar beneficial moves in recent


However, there are important differences between the offices being built

now, and those that appeared in the heady days of the 80s.

’It’s fair to say that in the early 80s, ad agencies were content to

blow the budget up front - how the staff were accommodated was

relatively unimportant,’ says David Harper, the founder of Harper

MacKay, a firm of architects and interior designers that has fitted out

agencies ranging from HHCL & Partners and Delaney Fletcher, to WCRS and

M&C Saatchi.

’The designs that agencies adopted in the 80s were full of beautiful-

looking, but not very practical twiddly bits, whereas now space is

planned and worked out to make buildings good places to work in as well

as lovely places to look at,’ Harper adds.


If the words ’benefit in kind’ remind you vaguely of a particularly good

all-night party in the late 70s; if you’re worried about using the term

’golden handshake’ in polite company; and if the last perk you saw was

playing opposite Pinky on children’s TV, then you definitely need this

kind of specialist help.

The truth is that no matter what they might have us believe, all

advertising agencies were definitely not created equal: magazine

publishers might make their living writing about beautiful million-pound

homes, but that doesn’t mean their staff will be working from offices to

match. And media companies... well, let’s just say that they might have

moved on from the ’gorillas with calculators’ image of a few years ago,

but the zoos they sometimes inhabit have not always done the same. This

is the 90s, remember, and all this quality-of-life stuff is



Capital Radio

Well, what else would you expect of a company that likes restaurants so

much it went out and bought a chain?

Staff get discounts at the Capital Radio Cafe, and at the group’s other

eateries, which include Beach Blanket Babylon, Bar Cuba and Salsa.

But there’s much, much more. Step forward Doris, who is queen of all she

surveys in Cafe 2, the group’s in-house canteen.

Open from 7.30am and practically the only place outside prison where you

can guarantee three square meals a day, there’s now a salad bar as


Plus, go in for breakfast and you could be sitting next to (gasp) Chris

Tarrant, who’s a great fan of Doris’s sausage and mustard


There’s a roof terrace for the summer, with views over Nelson’s Column

and Big Ben, and lunchtime barbecues. Now is this better than that

squalid 70s block on the Marylebone Road the station used to call home,

or what?


Faulds Advertising

It must be all that clean air or something, but the folks at Faulds

approach their sports with just the right amount of reverence. There’s

subsidised gym membership for starters, and a choice of gyms; the

obligatory softball team, and both five-a-side and 11-a-side football

outfits. The agency picks up the tab for all of it and even shells out

to provide kit. And not just ordinary kit - oh no, the boys and girls

from Faulds get to wear the famous blue and black stripes of Inter

Milan. And it doesn’t stop there. The agency organises skiing weekends

in the Cairngorms, and has debenture seats at Murrayfield and for both

the city’s football teams - Hearts and Hibernian - that are available to

all. Best of all, it doesn’t take an hour and a half to get to the

football field, although I suppose that’s more an advantage of Edinburgh

than of the agency itself.


Manning Gottlieb Media’s corporate MG

Get your motor running, head out on the highway, and, er, you know the

rest. In short, if you’re looking for excitement then look no further

than Colin Gottlieb. No, really. He might be richer than most media folk

who aren’t called Murdoch, thanks to the Omnicom deal, but does that

mean he has forgotten his staff? Of course not. His agency has always

been an enviable place to work - clearly going places and small enough

to promise to take staff with it - and now it has just got better.

The loss of the well-regarded Jo Barnett - to a client - was the first

major staff defection in the agency’s seven-year history but it has

produced its first all-star perk. When she left she also had to leave

behind her shiny, new MG and Gottlieb has never quite got around to

getting rid of it.

Occasionally staff would ask to borrow it for a weekend and now he has

decided to keep the car for just that sort of thing. There’ll be a book

next to the keys in the boss’s desk drawer and every person at the

company will be eligible to borrow the car without charge on a first

come, first served basis.

This stuff is cool.



HHCL & Partners

I’m taking my life into my hands with this one, I know, but just hear me

out. Office design was elevated into an art form in the 80s and

enthusiastically embraced by ad agencies, who quickly realised that

looking prosperous could help them become so. Unfortunately, the

luxuriant leather and chrome favoured in the public rooms never made it

through to the staff quarters. Indeed, nowhere was this contrast more in

evidence than at the decade’s most successful agency, Saatchi & Saatchi

- where it was clearly believed that what the client didn’t see would

not hurt them - and the staff passed through an opulent foyer into a

sort of neo-Dickensian nether world.

But then came the recession, and conspicuous consumption - even in the

public rooms - swiftly became a thing of the past. When the industry

started spending again a new standard of office design quickly sprang

into vogue, thanks in no small measure to the work that the architects

and interior designers, Harper MacKay, did for HHCL & Partners.

I also have a soft spot for a grand entrance and, as we say up north,

grand views, and M&C Saatchi with its 8,000 sq ft reception area and the

stunning full-glass windows of the partners’ top-floor meeting room, has

both of those in spades.


Michaelides & Bednash

No real reason why New PHD or MGM couldn’t have at least shared this

prize but for the fact that the latter has already won one category

while AMV taking the two top prizes would perhaps have been laying it on

a bit thick.

However, while New PHD and MGM are now having to adjust to the demands

of big corporate life, the younger and smaller Michaelides & Bednash has

not quite reached that stage yet.

It means the perks are quite thin on the ground - no bar and no pension,

while the staff canteen, according to Graham Bednash, is still Pret A

Manger. But there’s the gorgeous office and lots of hi-tech gadgets to

play with. And, because it’s still relatively small, there’s plenty of

flexibility - one staffer who has been with the company three years has

just taken four months off to travel without losing her job.

There’s a free annual Harley Street medical, BUPA, and subsidised gym

membership. Best of all, though, there’s the chance to compare your

resting heart rate with your boss, George Michaelides, who is,

apparently, a fitness fanatic. Now, what more could any media

professional want?


Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

Well, everyone can’t be the winner now can they and, for those agencies

starting to feel like the frumpy Miss Soviet Bloc at a Miss World

pageant, the good news is that the overall standards at ad agencies are

incredibly high. These are great places to work, over and above the fact

that the work itself is very often both stimulating and fun.

Of the contenders, Bartle Bogle Hegarty might very well have been the

choice before it made its big move. Staff from the Great Pulteney Street

days speak with warmth of the family atmosphere that has inevitably

paled as the agency has grown and moved into its plush new space. It’s

still one of the very best, though, and staff needs were pretty high up

the list when they were being designed.

There’s lots of natural light and the ergonomics are just right.

The staff are evangelical about Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe with very

good reason, as they are about St Luke’s.

And O&M is setting the benchmark for the biggest multinationals. Faulds

has free cinema and theatre tickets for staff, and Christmas parties

like the legendary themed Casino Royale extravaganza.

But AMV BBDO it is, and deservedly so. There are the big company

benefits - pension scheme, BUPA membership, sabbatical opportunities and

interest-free loans. There’s also the breakfast bar, and the agency

closes on Friday afternoons before bank holidays.

Oh, and who else stages a Christmas party just for staff children in

which one of the top executives dresses up as Santa and hands out


If only Tiny Tim’s dad had worked here.


National Magazine Company

The offices are nothing special by ad agency standards - in fact,

subsidence in the Broadwick Street headquarters means not all the doors

close as they should, but they are in exactly the right part of town,

and at least there isn’t the lottery of IPC’s labyrinthine lift


There’s no canteen but there are the kitchens of the Good Housekeeping

Institute which, if you can wangle an invite, are far better. Late cabs

are on account, which has to be better than claiming on expenses, and

there are lots of organised company social events. Apparently, pub

quizzes are the current favourite, which sounds about as clear a

definition of recreational slumming as you are ever likely to find. And

there are all the usual big company benefits such as pension and health

care and, as you might expect, extremely generous maternity leave

provisions. All of which makes it sound good, but perhaps not

sufficiently out of the ordinary.

Certainly not when compared with, say, Channel Four, with its fantastic

building, enlightened recruitment policy and excellent canteen. But

where NatMags really scores is not in the fact that individual magazines

get to decorate their own offices as they want, it’s in the amount of

time people stay with the company. Last month, NatMags hosted a party

for 50 employees who had clocked up more than 15 years service.

Sometimes figures do speak louder than words.



AMV BBDO             Yes/all-day

                     coffee           Yes            Interest-free loan

BBH                  Yes              After 9.30pm   No

BDH                  No               Yes            N/A

BMP DDB              No               Yes            Season ticket loan

Faulds               No               Yes            N/A

Mediapolis           No               When

                                      appropriate    Season ticket loan

MediaVest            No/Yes           Yes            Interest-free loan

MGM                  No               Yes            Season ticket loan

Michaelides &

 Bednash             No               Yes            No

New PHD              Yes              Yes            Interest-free loan

Ogilvy & Mather      Yes              After 8pm      Season ticketloan

Saatchi & Saatchi    Yes              Yes            Interest-free loan

Capital Radio        Capital Radio

                     Cafe             Yes            No

CLT UK Radio Sales   No               Yes            No

EMAP On Air          ’Social area’    When

                                      required       Where relevant

John Brown

 Publishing          In new offices   Yes            Interest-free loan

LWT                  Yes              Evening

                                      shuttle        Season ticket loan

Talk Radio           Yes              After 10pm     Interest-free loan

Eurosport            No               Yes            Interest-free loan

Zenith Media         Free wine

                     after 6pm        Yes            Season ticket loan

NatMags              No               On account     Interest-free loan


AMV BBDO             Softball, seven-a-side rugby

BBH                  Softball, football, cricket, rugby

BDH                  Football, cricket

BMP DDB              Softball, cricket, tennis, football

Faulds               Football, softball, various

Mediapolis           Yes

MediaVest            Football, rounders, softball

MGM                  No

Michaelides &

 Bednash             Football

New PHD              Football (men and women)

Ogilvy & Mather      Softball, rugby

Saatchi & Saatchi    Football, softball

Capital Radio        N/A

CLT UK Radio Sales   Pro-am golf days

EMAP On Air          Softball, football

John Brown

 Publishing          Football

LWT                  No

Talk Radio           N/A

Eurosport            Softball, basketball, rugby

Zenith Media         Football, softball

NatMags              Football

COMPANY              CRECHE   MATERNITY                   GYM MEMBERSHIP

AMV BBDO             No       6 months full pay           No

BBH                  No       40 weeks leave              Yes, corporate

BDH                  No       Full maternity leave        Yes

BMP DDB              No       Enhanced payments

                              after 2yrs service          Yes, corporate

Faulds               No       Maternity and paternity     Yes, corporate

Mediapolis           No       Above statutory norm        Yes, corporate

MediaVest            No       Under 2yrs, statutory.

                              2-5yrs, better              Yes, corporate

MGM                  No       Full maternity provisions   Yes, corporate

Michaelides &

 Bednash             No       Full maternity provisions   Yes, corporate

New PHD              No       Better than statutory       Yes, corporate

Ogilvy & Mather      No       Better than statutory       Yes, corporate

Saatchi & Saatchi    Not yet  Better than statutory       In-house gym


Capital Radio        No       Enhanced after 2 yrs

                              service                     Yes, corporate

CLT UK Radio sales   No       As government legislation   Yes, corporate

EMAP On Air          No       Maternity provisions

                              provided                    To be decided

John Brown

 Publishing          No       As government legislation   Yes, corporate

LWT                  No       Varies according to

                              length of service           Yes, corporate

Talk Radio           No       As government legislation   Yes, corporate

Eurosport            No       As government legislation   Yes, interest-

                                                          free loan

Zenith Media         No       As government legislation   Yes, subsidised

NatMags              No       Far superior to government

                              legislation                 Yes, corporate

COMPANY                      PENSION                 BUPA

AMV BBDO                     Yes                     Equivalent

BBH                          Yes                     Equivalent

BDH                          Yes                     Yes

BMP DDB                      Yes                     Yes

Faulds                       Yes                     Yes

Mediapolis                   Yes                     Yes

MediaVest                    Yes                     Yes

MGM                          No                      No

Michaelides & Bednash        No                      No

New PHD                      Yes                     Yes

Ogilvy & Mather              Yes                     Yes

Saatchi & Saatchi            Yes (over 22-yr-olds)   Board members

Capital Radio                One year’s service      Yes

CLT UK Radio sales           Yes                     Yes

EMAP On Air                  Yes                     Up to individual

John Brown Publishing        N/A                     Yes, and PPP

LWT                          Yes                     Yes

Talk Radio                   No                      No

Eurosport                    Yes                     Life Assurance

Zenith Media                 Yes                     No

NatMags                      Yes                     Yes


AMV BBDO             N/A                      Moving shortly

BBH                  3 yrs                    Custom-designed

BDH                  N/A                      Converted church

BMP DDB              34 per cent over 5yrs    Yes

Faulds               9 yrs                    Wooden desks

Mediapolis           5 yrs-plus               Expensive German


MediaVest            N/A                      New offices 2 yrs ago

MGM                  7 yrs                    Spent pounds 250,000 on


Michaelides &

 Bednash             N/A (Agency 3 yrs old)   In Architectural Digest

New PHD              N/A                      One of the best

Ogilvy & Mather      N/A                      Nice, but in Canary Wharf

Saatchi & Saatchi    5 yrs                    Oh dear...

Capital Radio        N/A                      Moved in January 1997

CLT UK Radio sales   Only 18 months old       Ikea furniture

EMAP On Air          Launches in November     Open-floorplan style

John Brown

 Publishing          N/A                      Brand new

LWT                  Most staff on contracts  Needs refurbishment

Talk Radio           Only 2 yrs old           Open-plan one floor

Eurosport            Over 2 yrs               Open-plan

Zenith Media         4 yrs                    Fully air-conditioned

NatMags              N/A                      Individual magazine themes