What Is Agency Culture? Beer? Billiards?

Yes, I usually work on electronics whilst drinking suds.  Credit where credit's due: "Image courtesy of marin/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net".

Yes, I usually work on electronics whilst drinking suds.

Credit where credit's due: "Image courtesy of marin/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net".

I just read the People page of Bernstein-Rein’s website

It says:

“Culture is about so much more than a ping-pong table. Which is why we also have shuffleboard, foosball, billiards, beer on tap, a candy dispenser, a Beauty Brands retail store, a spectacular view of the Kansas City skyline and pens with our company logo. But the truth is, our most valuable asset is our people.

We are artists, scientists, strategists, technologists, storytellers and data analysts. And every day, we put ourselves in the same room and figure out how to make an impact on the brands we serve. This is the approach that defines who we are and how we work. Also, we have a professional-grade coffee bar.”

I’ve written about it before, agency culture is more than beer Fridays and billiards. Or bringing your dog to work.

So when an agency defines their culture by the stuff they have for their employees, it makes me wonder what culture really consists of. (I know that by using this example they're gonna be hatin' on me.)

Don’t get me wrong, this agency looks like a great place to work, but if you take away all that . . . stuff . . . do they have a culture? Or does any agency without stuff have a culture, for that matter?

Back in the olden days, when I was actually employed by an agency, we all had separate offices. Yep, and collaboration worked really well. The good old days before open space, BYOD and, for cripes sakes, hotelling, sigh.

There were chairs, desks, drawing boards, pillows on the floor, Molskine notebooks, pencils and markers, an awesome library, and lots of people working in each-other’s offices.

We didn’t have billiards or beer on tap. However there was plenty of that downstairs in the bar – where we gathered quite regularly – sometimes before quitting time, but more often, hours later.

Granted that what the folks at B-R wrote about culture is clever, fun. But when you take that stuff away, does everyone leave the agency? Do they hate the partners?

I’ve talked to a lot of young creative folks over the years about where they want to work, and when they tell me they want to work for X Agency because they allow dogs or have a room dedicated to Xbox, I have to wonder . . . What happened to wanting the opportunity to work with the best agency and do the best work?

Do they know what advertising is about?

So to B-R, yes you got it right, because it takes all kinds – artists, scientists, and so on to do great creative – in the same room. That in itself creates the culture. The rest are perks.

Everyone should be grateful for the perks. Thank your partners for them, and then go and do great work.