Agency Culture

Big topic. What is it? How do you create it?

I’ve said many times that dogs at work, flexible hours, open space and Beer Fridays do not constitute Agency Culture.

And, by the way, they’re not entitlements either.

I’ve worked in places that had real, true Agency Culture. The kind of place where everything clicks, we look forward to going to work, we enjoy our colleagues, and great creative is nurtured.

I’ve also worked in places that tried to create Agency Culture through zany meetings, meaningless accolades (usually for the same suck-ups – oops usual suspects), birthdays complete with festive cake, and yes, Beer Fridays.

We all have a job to do. And it should be in a place where you actually like the people you work with – and respect them.

I think a great Agency Culture comes from a place of mutual respect. From the top – down.

The rest just happens.

Good Friends Old Agencies

It’s Sunday. Mother’s Day. All that stuff is good. But what makes this special is that my dear friend from Portland is visiting me.

Julie is here. We worked together for a few years way back when at Gerber Advertising in Portland, Oregon.

I was up there on the left, just above the arched window. Five years with a view of The Portland Outdoor Store neon cowboy.

I was up there on the left, just above the arched window. Five years with a view of The Portland Outdoor Store neon cowboy.

She is the funniest person I know. And is the only woman I know who could make a longshoreman blush with her very creative use of profanity. Always elegantly executed. You wouldn’t know what just hit you.

We conceded that Gerber had one of the best groups of people we have ever worked with. You know, those times when the chemistry what just - there? 

Julie and I reminisced about the funny things that happened. The arguments between creative and account; Brian and his tricks; personal ups and downs; and how we got through life while keeping up with a job that was fun and stressful at the same time. And the phone books. The Best Story Ever.

Back then, we’d get new phonebooks every year. Big, thick Yellow Pages. So Ma Bell delivered a couple hundred to our agency. Being in Oregon, it was time to recycle.

There was a copywriter who rarely showed up to work. He was Important. I guess. So Brian and colleague Jerry decided to take care of recycling. They sent an email to the agency, from this Important Copywriter’s email account saying that his son was doing a recycling drive at school and to put all the old phone books in his office. In the Important Copywriter’s office.

Now, we were in an old, historic building. Everyone had an office. Little spaces with windows facing the hall. The absent writer had an office about six by eight feet. One can only imagine…

Phonebooks stacked floor to ceiling, only enough room to open the door. The light was turned out and the door shut.

A few days later, the Important Copywriter showed up. He saw the Wall of Yellow. I don’t think he saw the humor. I don’t think he ever returned.

Gerber is gone now, but the stories live on.

So anyway, Julie’s here. We’re going to a casino so she can play craps, and we’re going to have awesome carnita tacos tonight that my lovely daughter-in-law Barbara is making.

Nice. Mother’s Day and Friends.