Expertise / Commercial and Workplace / Designer insight

Creating an unfair workplace advantage

"It's simple. Creativity drives commercial return. And never before has creativity been so important to us and our clients. In a world of unprecedented competition and product parity, where consumers are bombarded with more channels and more messages than ever before, creativity is the last legal means of driving unfair competitive advantage." – Clemenger BBDO

Creative agencies including Clemenger BBDO, George Patterson Y&R and Leo Burnett have, with the help of HASSELL, leapt ahead of many other corporate organisations to create inspiring workplaces that offer the comforts of home, the fun of a playground and the buzz of a cafe.

"Advertising agencies were some of the first to recognise the link between a comfortable, fun and inspiring office and the generation of great ideas," says HASSELL Principal Scott Walker.

"If people feel comfortable in the environment they're in, they actually work at their best. There's something inherently efficient and productive about being comfortable.

"People need a diverse range of spaces - public, private and shared, to not only foster creativity, but to feel comfortable collaborating and engaging with the people around them which is crucial to the generation of new ideas," says Scott.

When Scott returned to George Patterson Y&R's Melbourne office recently – a workplace he'd helped design in 2011 – he was happy but not surprised to find people had really embraced the space, making it their own with work pinned up on all the walls.

"We wanted the first impression of the space to be of a working environment. A place where people are doing what they do, and it's all visible to you when you walk in," says George Patterson Y&R's Executive Creative Director in Australia, Ben Coulson.

According to Tom Ding, Strategic Planner with George Patterson Y&R, this is part of what makes the office fun to work in.

"I've been in this office for about two years now and I'd say it's definitely the best office I've ever worked in. It's hard to pin down exactly what it is that makes it so good and so much fun, but you can just see it by the way people interact, as they move around, it's a place where everyone enjoys working," says Tom.

Ben Coulson says the creative outcome was driven by a fun, open and creative process.

"Working with the HASSELL design team on our new workplace wasn't much different to working with our own creative teams," explains Ben.

"We drew on a wide range of influences to create a really unique, welcoming and comfortable space. For example, reception is part concierge, part boutique hotel lobby, part library."

The idea of bringing work out into the open and creating more spaces for collaboration also drove the brief for the Clemenger BBDO office in Sydney.

"Clemenger BBDO moved from quite a traditional workplace to something a lot more creative," says HASSELL Principal Matt Blain, who has also worked with a number of creative companies in addition to Clemenger BBDO, including Leo Burnett and Google.

"The approach was about moving people out of small offices, or 'caravans' as they called them, and into a more open, shared environment.

"So, rather than ideas being hidden away on a computer screen or on a piece of paper on someone's desk, they are now out there for everyone in the organisation to see – pinned up on walls that have been purpose designed to display work to the whole office," explains Matt.

At Leo Burnett, also designed by HASSELL, one of the central ideas was about coming together at a kitchen table to talk and work and foster a sense of community and efficiency.

"Leo Burnett was the first Australian agency to rank within the Top 10 Most Creative Companies in the world and they wanted their workplace to keep driving that creativity," says Matt.

"The work settings have the feel of a kitchen table – very relaxed and casual. The idea is that the workplace generally can become a mess, and no one is too precious about it, because that's how a home can be.

"If the collective successes of agencies like Clemenger BBDO, Leo Burnett and George Patterson Y&R are anything to measure by, I'd definitely say a well-designed workplace is an unfair advantage for an advertising agency," says Matt.

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