Constant buyouts, spin-offs, and mergers give a certain dynamism to advertising agencies—making them fertile ground for workplace reinvention.
This prompted McCann Erickson to redesign its Midtown Manhattan HQ’s, home to 600 employees in both local and worldwide divisions.
McCann Erickson New York is the flagship and largest office of McCann World Group, the world’s largest advertising agency network, with operations in more than 120 countries and a client roster that includes preeminent global marketers and many of the world’s most famous brands.
Last week saw the grand opening of the McCann Erickson Headquarters in New York.
The two-fold task of charging forward while preserving the agency’s 83-year-old gravitas ultimately fell to two different yet complementary firms, Gensler and Tom Dixon’s interiors-focused Design Research Studio – to join forces to reflect a new identity for their office in Manhattan.
While Gensler ( led by principal and design director Brian Berry), has virtually limitless corporate experience, McCann would be Design Research Studio’s first office project as well as his first interior in the U.S.
Of the five levels (totalling 12,000 sq mtrs) the executive top floor went to Dixon to transform for the worldwide management team, while Gensler handled the four floors below, often pulling from Dixon’s catalog of furniture and lighting.
Tom Dixon said …… “Ten or so years back, people thought everyone would be working from home by now, that there would be flight from the cities, that people would be decentralized, but almost the opposite has happened. People very much want to commune, despite the fact that they can communicate efficiently 24 hours a day.
What I noticed with the private clubs was that people were joining not to go there at night but actually to work there during the day, to take a chance meeting over good coffee.”
So the design team’s challenge was to give the once compartmental office an open and spontaneous feel.
Design Research Studio’s senior designer on the project, Jacu Strauss notes … ‘We wanted to liberate the space by replacing the cubicle layout with an open environment encouraging a modern and collaborative way of working, as well as reveal the extraordinary views of Manhattan previously only enjoyed by a select few.’
The layout was challenged, replacing the cubicle layout with an open environment encouraging a modern and collaborative way of working.
Departments were given ‘zones’ to create a variety of environments throughout the office and help break spaces up for a more casual means of working eg Central Park: a natural, informal and flexible area favoring communication and openness; and the Science lab: an efficient, high-tech area – a symbol of future profitability.
‘Central Park’ zone, sitting beneath 102 copper domes is framed by a large foliage display that surrounds a custom built blue seating system and is home to the finance department.
The massive blue foam seating system of the Central Park break-out is set apart by dividers covered in live plants.
“It was about getting away from your desk and having an unconventional sitting area with a bit of greenery,” said Strauss “It’s adjacent to the finance department, which we felt particularly needed to enjoy a less formal environment and put their feet up on a large and complicated sofa.”
There is also an Apartment and Lounge, a Ballroom and finally, the Library, each providing a unique way of working.
The corner occupied by Human Resources is dubbed the Apartment.
Low furniture such as Tom Dixon’s sofa and lightweight furniture and lighting. rosewood veneer cabinetry and glass-enclosed meeting rooms maintain the visibility.
“It’s more of a communication space than an office—people work in a face-to-face way,” Dixon says.
It’s entirely in keeping with his quasi-retro products in “honest” marble, brass, and hardwood as well as with his past interiors for such private clubs as London’s Shoreditch House.
“Diplomatically put, the bank branch across the street had become more exciting,” McCann chief creative officer for global brands Linus Karlsson says. “Perhaps once right for a different era, the old space no longer represented who we are. It was designed for people to disappear into.”
There was a distinct lack of places for casual interaction, and the best views were reserved for senior staff in corner offices.
“A lot of people were hiding in their cubicles, never communicating amongst themselves,” Dixon recalls. “It was hard to find your way around, because it was so compartmentalized.”
Now, corners are reserved for break-out areas and meeting rooms, allowing the newly liberated views to every side to create a passive form of way-finding.
Traditionally hierarchical offices were jettisoned for benching workstations, plus plenty of meeting and telephone rooms in a variety of sizes.
The idea was super-flexibility.
“In the ad world, employees might come in at 10:00 in the morning and leave at 10:00 at night. There’s a rhythm to creative work that’s not nine-to-five,” said Brian Berry ( design director for Gensler) explaining why Gensler provided a selection of color palettes and moods that essentially go from darkest at the top to brightest at the bottom—a something-for-everyone way of working.
“Even though you’ve been assigned a desk on a certain floor, you can bring clients to a location that fits your personality.”
Black and grey dominate the Gensler designed main reception area and the adjacent café.
The other double-height space is main reception, which resembles a hip hotel lobby with seating that’s tailored yet informal.
Instead of the main lounge’s spiral staircase, a much grander flight of stairs ascends straight to Dixon’s executive realm
“It’s a hospitality-meets-workplace environment,” Berry says. “Especially in New York, the hotel lobbies that people want to hang out in have little nods to a faux-historical world.”
That level and the very bottom one are connected via the residential-style spiral staircase in the double-height main lounge, where sunny yellow Jonathan Adler sectionals and a zigzag rug lend the feeling of a living room.
About McCann World Group
Since its launch a century ago as one of the advertising world’s major agencies, McCann New York has played a pivotal industry role in defining how to understand and motivate consumers in an ever-changing communications environment. At McCann, this energy and expertise began on day one.
When starting the agency, Harrison King McCann and his team declared that their point of difference would be a Truth Well Told philosophy that inextricably linked the deep truths of consumer insight with the stimulating excitement of well-expressed advertising. Truth Well Told was, and remains, a results-focused approach for uniting strategy and creativity.
In 1930, McCann merged with The Erickson Company, an agency with even older roots.
The New York merger that established McCann Erickson also reinforced the shared corporate values of two founders who have been publicly cited for their leadership in establishing both the core general practices and ethical guidelines of the industry.
This included their roles in helping to launch both the 4As and the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
The New York agency has gone on as well to become the innovation crucible out of which lasting research and integrated marketing practices have been developed.
As is well known, the McCann Erickson Worldwide network is one of the world’s largest and certainly the most integrated and coordinated global ad agency system.
As the flagship agency of this global network, McCann New York operates at the critical juncture where worldwide and national clients, markets, and media channels intersect.
This infuses McCann New York with the sophisticated perspective that explains how it can work to produce effective advertising for a wide range of clients, whether global, national or retail, and in many different product and service categories.
From its origins in the early twentieth century through its expansive performance today, McCann Erickson has been known for its powerful impact on the business of its clients as well as on the advertising business at large.
It’s in this New York agency where some of the most famous brand-building advertising has been developed, whether “I’d like to teach the world to sing” and “Mean Joe Greene” for Coca-Cola, or “I’m Worth It” for L’Oréal, or “It’s everything you always wanted in a beer. And less.” for Miller Lite, or “Priceless” for MasterCard, or “Army Strong” for the U.S. Army.
About Design Research Studio
Tom is noted for his ingenious use of raw materials and ability to express a strong narrative with a dose of Britishness and eccentricity.
It is with the same ethos that Design Research Studio was created in 2002.
Specialising in high concept interiors, large scale installations and architectural design, Design Research Studio has been involved in important commissions in the UK and internationally.
Based in London, Design Research Studio attracts some of the greatest talent in interior design and architecture to work with highly innovative clients.
Gensler is a global design firm that partners with clients to make cities more livable, work smarter and leisure more engaging.
They have approx 3,800 professionals networked across 44 locations believe quality design can transform organizations and improve people’s lives.
Since 1965, Gensler have helped clients achieve measurable business and organizational goals, delivering projects as large as a city and as small as a task light for an individual desk.
Gensler is organized to support clients at every stage of the design cycle, from initial strategy and design planning through implementation and management.
During the last year, Gensler worked in 90 countries with 2,145 clients.