Agency Insider: Havas Worldwide Chicago

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"Agency Insider" is a series of articles about Chicago Agencies from the people that work in those agencies.

The windows that peer into the advertising agency’s new lobby/gallery space at its 36 East Grand Ave. office in the heavily foot-trafficked-yet-art-starved River North section of downtown bordered by State Street and Michigan Avenue have the potential to make it a bit of a local attraction. But the creative shop with a flair for digital design doesn’t merely project outwardly as a beacon of fun and culture; internally, it is a melting pot of form and function, thanks to a recent gutting.

Havas Worldwide Chicago is quietly undergoing a creative cultural revolution in an industry that’s great at swapping perception for reality. Part of the Havas Worldwide Network and until recently known as Euro RSCG Chicago, the unit switched gears two years ago by hiring Chief Creative Officer Jason Peterson (Berlin Cameron, Translation nyc). Peterson is recharging the Midwest shop with ideas and sledgehammers. In 2011, the year following the more-open office redesign, Euro RSCG Chicago won or expanded 10 accounts, making it a record new business year for the agency.

Conceptually, the agency wanted to take the idea of transparency as far as it could go. To make sure smart creative minds were ingrained with media, digital and other disciplines, Peterson started “unifying” departments literally—by tearing down divisive office structures and transforming them into open spaces. On Floor 3, a once-gated elevator now opens to a conference room that Havas WW Chicago CEO, Ron Bess, refers to as “the brain of our operation.” Today, this “room” with no walls is where a multi-departmental team presents all agency pitches.

Gone are locked rooms where units secretly met to present briefs that rolled slowly through discrete departments. This process is archaic and clients don’t have the time or money for it. Now, people from each group meet at the table to talk about the problem from all angles. They go away, think on it and return to share ideas. Throughout the floor, work graces the walls. Anyone—from any department—is allowed to share a creative idea.

The architect of the now Havas office was Gensler (Santa Monica, CA). Built in 1998 by John Buck and Co. It's more than 90,000 sq ft.

Comments

Where to begin? "Melting pot of form and function"? I didn't know that a "melting pot's" key ingredients basically constituted bringing in people from New York, letting better employees walk and fostering a climate of cliquish immaturity and ass-kissing. That starts at the top with Mr Peterson, who couldn't care less about print or out of home, much less say two words in passing to the peons who serve under him tirelessly on pitches that invariably lose due to piss poor planning. Jason didn't just take a sledgehammer to the walls, but to the accounts as well. Euro / Havas is roughly a third of the size it was two years ago due to accounts fleeing en masse. The open creative space is a good idea on paper, but complete failure in practice. The area is practically a library, with creatives spending most of their time focused on the avalanche of work while mentally isolated by headphones. In short, there's nothing fun about working there and nothing brilliant / or innovative about what Mr Peterson has done with the place. Just pretentiousness. Like the terrible "art" that adorns the lobby and presentation room.

So where does Chief Creative Officer Jason Peterson and CEO Ron Bess sit and work? Would love to see where in the "open space" office they occupy and come up with their brilliant ideas. Seriously, who decided that these type of work spaces promoted better ideas and creativity? My guess is it's someone in finance. And those who do promote these environments, please provide some real evidence and not just idealistic theories to justify the latest fad in office design.

Jason Peterson sits in a wide open office with no door as soon as you walk off the elevator on the creative floor. He is always visible to anyone at anytime that wants to talk with him. That's transparency. Probably check your facts before you spout.

Nice press release, Jason. Goes well with lone adoration from twisted, bitter queen Lewis Lazare.

Wow is this BS! He went on to lose most of them and they are tiny crm, then proceeded to lose all the big accounts except Citi DM. This is insane they had to let go both Managing directors, several layoffs and continue losing clients that they had had for years. Jesus what the press will print, literally have people with nothing to do. This schmuck tool bag can't even remember to bring his wallet to the airport for a pitch.

Hmmm, I've seen press on layoffs and loses have yet to see anything on wins. They must not like self promotion, hehe.

Some toadies working overtime, they know damn well it's not really open, its surronded by 3 windows and a half wall with the 1/2 opening obstructed by a bookshelf. He hides in the corner where you can't see him while playing video games or isn't there. Obviously that poster knew the lay of the land. God forbid you actually try and talk to Jason in his "open office", especially when he's busy playing video games or when he has a young girl in his office, or eating sushi.

This really is sad, this happened like a year and a half ago. I doubt it's a toadie as they would have put thier name. Plus no one there would care enought to defend him. My guess is that it was from a certain person with little in the way of clients who had a meltdown at the Walgreens pitch. Too bad.

This re-model-open concept-sweet shop was done over a year and half ago when they had clients and hardworking employees to fill the seats. Now they would need to bring people off other floors and hobos from the street to fill those seats. Havas used to be a agency with a dedicated hardworking staff that enjoyed working with their co-workers and the possibility of creating great work. Now its a agency where the people are assuming that they will be replaced, laid off or yelled at by a immature CCO and power hungry account VP account team. Two years ago I would have said this was relevant and a great way to run a creative environment, now I just look at this is a preview for any new company that may need new space after Havas implodes.

What is this 1997, although one may think so by the decor. An ad agency (being charitable) goes to open floor plan? It would be a story if they went to offices.

I wouldn't bother commenting if I were not constantly assaulted with this on LinkedIn updates. Funny story, I was down in the first floor lobby as JP was doing something with the windows on both sides of the glass. I thought I'd win some points by mentioning fine art so I said something like, cool sort of like Kandinsky. JP replies, this is gonna be cool as fuck nothing like that punk. I literally looked him in the eyes which I rarely did since he has a JLo thing going and just turned around and pushed the elevator button. What can you say to that?!

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