The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

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Office space

By The Drum, Administrator

March 30, 2005 | 8 min read

A picture speaks a thousand words. So, when Adline invited Midland agencies to send us one or two pictures of their creative environments, we were sure to learn a lot about the culture and personality of the firms in question. Giving them a fairly open brief – always a slightly risky manoeuvre when dealing with those creative sorts – Adline was prepared for an eclectic mix of images and that’s exactly what it got. From pool tables to punch-bags, from watering holes to wet naked men in showers, Midland agencies prove that when it comes to gaining inspiration for truly creative concepts, they’ll go to extraordinary lengths.

01. Big Communications

With tongue firmly in cheek, an agency spokesperson said: “The creative department at Big thrives within its textbook feng shui surrounds. Open plan in design to permit the free-flow of positive chi forces, no single element overpowers the natural balance, resulting in the stimulating, clutter-free environment required for high-concept thought processes, under mood-enhancing halogen strip lighting.”

It is an environment that works, with both award-winning and results-driven work continuing to give the firm a reputation as one of the most creative agencies in the UK.

02. Citigate Communications

Citigate Communications, in Birmingham, is currently going through a number of changes, especially in the creative department. Without a football table, dartboard or even a chair, the creatives have one primary concern at the moment: when their creative environment will be ready. Plans are afoot and a spokesperson told Adline to, “Watch this space. The creatives at Citigate have big plans.” In the meantime, the creatives are making good use of the extra space.

03. Ad One

Based in Stoke-on-Trent, Ad One’s creative inspiration appears to be found in one of the more unusual environments. Copywriter, Steven Wolse, has found that the life of a creative isn’t always a glamorous one. He said: “If I don’t grind out results, I get grounded. Well, undergrounded really, in the agency cellar until I do. I have now been here for so long, I forget what daylight looks like. I have still not developed a good enough creative solution for the self-tapping brass screw brief I started back in October.” The agency’s inspiration/punishment appears to be doing the trick though. The most recent addition to the client list being The Portman Building Society.

04. Unsuitable

Based in Birmingham’s Custard Factory offices, Unsuitable’s inspiration comes from what it describes as a “dynamic vista” that features Selfridges, the Rotunda and BT Tower. Richard Hughes, designer at Unsuitable, said: “Too many agencies have moved out of the city, but for us, being in the city was crucial – who wants to be stuck in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to inspire you.” The agency’s creative milieu is festooned with a horde of inspiration. The agency’s new business success is affirmation of Unsuitable’s growing reputation as one of the agencies worth watching in 2005.

05. Yes Direct

While some agency creatives roll their wrists on table football, and others punch a bag, or each other, in the quest for outside-the-box thinking, at Yes they prefer to cleanse their mind, and evidently, their bodies in the shower. Explaining all, a spokesperson at the agency, remarked: “A firm believer that a healthy creative mind results from a healthy body, Yes Direct encourages its staff to take regular time off to exercise. Consequentially, its newly refurbished offices have showers in both the little boys’ and little girls’ rooms.”

06. Kiwi

Based on Birmingham’s bustling Broad Street, the Kiwi team has a mere stroll to find a mile-long stretch of bars. However, inspiration doesn’t end there. As well as having its own decks, Kiwi’s creative team, as the picture shows, find that outside-the-box thinking can arrive with releasing a bit of tension. While bashing the hell out of each other with big soft gloves is a new one to Adline, it seems to be working. While the agency has, until now, kept a low profile, its summer campaign for Bullring, and work for clients such as Speedo and Crowne Plaza Hotel NEC, suggest this agency packs a punch.

07. The dairy

Operating in a converted farmhouse in Derbyshire, The Dairy is up to its knees in it – work, that is. Clients such as American Adventure and Bravissimo attest to a fast growing creative agency. Jo Cooke, joint creative director at The Dairy, said: “We have expanded into the farmhouse, with the studio is housed in what was formerly the kids’ playroom. Hence the two-storey castle where there’s lots of room to play. We don’t have room for drinks machines, football tables and the like – but we do keep a hearty supply of biscuits. This year we hope to move to bigger premises. We’ll be sorry to leave the castle – but the kids will be delighted.”

08. Seal Communications

Following its merger with The Warman Group, Seal has moved out of Edgbaston and into its Fleet Street office, and has outlined its commitment to delivering creative that produces results. Chief executive, Steve Dann, said: “Our recent move to new purpose-designed offices in Birmingham city centre presented the perfect opportunity to redefine working practices and create a vibrant working environment. Situated alongside the canal lock network, with attractive decking space for summer client meetings, the office design reflects Seal’s brand identity, and features bench-style workstations for maximum flexibility.”

09. Parenthesis

Having branched out into the interior design field for some of its clients, it is little surprise that Parenthesis has crafted itself an impressive creative environment. Based in a converted canal-side warehouse in Coventry, the team have little distance to travel to seek inspiration outdoors. However, perhaps more impressive is the firm’s reception area, which thanks to the designs of creative Paul Barton, has been fitted with comfy seating and a café bar. As well as being a suitable location for showcasing the agency’s collection of awards, the area provides a welcome, er, welcome area and chill-out space for creatives to produce exciting creative thinking.

10. Elevator

Formed as a partnership between creative duo Paul Skellett and Matt Cannon, Elevator is the youngest agency in this Midlands focus. As well as having its own studio, Elevator has a “very chilled” living area. Also operational as a meeting room, it is furnished with ethnic carpets, TV, surround sound, games console, elevator art, a strange plague doctor mask and a punch-bag. Cannon commented: “This is such a great room, I wish I could spend more time in here, but unfortunately business is business and I’m in the studio most of the time. However, it’s great to get in here and give yourself a break.”

11. Rees Bradley Hepburn

Creative-wannabes are unlikely to be deterred by RBH’s image of the local boozer, however, don’t be fooled into thinking the agency isn’t busy. Clients such as Hyundai, Bullring and Jaguar are proof of RBH’s standing as one of the largest and most successful independent agencies in the UK. Creative director, Jamie Putnam, said: “Some need Zen-like tranquillity for their creative mediation so our creative ‘goat shed’ in bucolic Meriden is ideal. Others find their muse at the local boozer; generally, between pint number two and pint number three. We like to empower our creatives as much as possible. As long as they’re coming up with the goods and they’re within a few minutes of the agency, it’s up to them how they want to work.”

12. Rave Communications

Unfortunately, at the time of going to press, Rave has assured us that its creative environment wasn’t looking all that photogenic. Instead, Rave has headed off (not unlike one or two of their Midland counterparts, it has to be said) on a bit of a tangent. It would seem the agency’s creative inspiration comes from playing dress up. Chris Date, PR manager and apparently part-time mechanic, said: “With a name like Rave, people expect something a little different from us and we always strive to give them that. If you thought the dressing up only took place for photo shoots, you don’t know the half of it.”

13. McCann Erickson

As the largest agency in the Midlands (180 staff in total), McCann Erickson has one of the biggest agency homes. Based on the outskirts of Solihull, the agency has spent the last few years growing its creative team. Among the agency’s inspirational paraphernalia is a pool table, which allows the creative team an opportunity to take a break during those long shifts. The agency is currently busy shooting commercials for Alliance & Leicester, and is about to launch TV ads for Husky Fridges and New York Bagels.


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