Periodically, agencies decide that the only thing standing between them and massive success is a rearrangement of the furniture.
For a time it was specialised account-groups.
Making a creative team, a planner, and an account man sit together.
This supposedly resulted in cross-fertilisation that couldn’t happen by normal talking.
We’re due for this to crop up again any time now.
The first time it was tried was before I even got into the business.
At Pritchard Wood in the 1960s.
They had specialised account teams sharing offices.
Because this was before planners, the team was two creatives, an account man, and a TV producer.
One of these account teams comprised John Webster and his copywriter, plus a TV producer, and a young account man called Frank Lowe.
Apparently sharing an office with John Webster was where Frank Lowe first got a love of creative advertising.
Which was why, subsequently, he went on to transform CDP into one of the greatest agencies in the UK.
But, strangely enough, he didn’t have account groups sharing offices.
Neither did John Webster, when he went on to run BMP, another truly great agency.
These fads come and go.
A few years ago the fad was for ‘hot desking’.
This is like open plan except you don’t even have an assigned seat, you sit wherever you can.
So, like Ryanair or Easyjet, whoever gets there first grabs the best seats.
But open plan isn’t new either.
Years ago, there used to be an agency called KMP.
The creative director was a guy called Mike Kidd.
The Chairman told Mike that the whole agency was going open plan.
Mike asked why.
The Chairman said it would be more energetic, more modern, more buzzy.
Mike said, “You mean more noisy.”
The Chairman said a little noise was good, everyone could share the excitement.
Mike said, “Except for the people who need quiet to work.”
The Chairman said he thought the whole agency would look more lively and inviting to clients.
Mike said he thought clients came for the quality of the ads, and creatives needed quiet to work.
The Chairman said the decision had been taken.
The entire agency was going open plan and that was that.
Mike said the creative department wasn’t.
The Chairman said, the whole agency and that included the creative department.
And workmen spent all week taking down all the office partitions.
So that by Monday morning everything was one huge light and airy, open plan office.
Except for the eight wooden garden sheds in the middle.
Over the weekend Mike Kidd had called up a garden centre and got them to deliver and erect a shed for each creative team.
Each shed had a padlock, and each creative team had their own key.
Creativity isn’t just words and pictures.