Reporting on agency culture is inherently challenged, in that it’s impossible to accurately or completely describe a culture without immersing oneself in it. So for the annual agency culture feature, we asked agency staffers to share anecdotes and trivia that illustrate something fun, cool, weird or otherwise notable about their company’s culture. Here are the most illuminating responses.
Intentional Conflict, Minus the Shoe-Hurling
At Biolumina, we believe that curiosity is at the foundation of everything we do. We like to think of ourselves as “translational scientists” who take complex scientific ideas and translate them into captivating brand experiences. We push one another to uncover truths, discover potential and create energy that moves the needle forward. How do we make this work for us? A little thing called Happy Conflict.
No, this does not mean you pick things up and start throwing them at people when they say something you don’t like — that’s workplace violence, which we do not condone. Rather, Biolumina defines Happy Conflict as positive intellectual debate that results in progress — better ideas, better work, better communication, better anything and everything. We want people with diverse backgrounds and experience because we don’t believe that great minds think alike; we think they often think very differently. Happy Conflict is used internally among our employees but also with our clients. It’s a diverse tool that has inspired some awesome work.
A Champion of Snacks and Scavenger Hunts
Over the years, our operations team found themselves struggling to carve out time to plan and run the agency’s many employee events. As we started to prioritize culture as one of our calling cards, the events became much more frequent. And as the company grew in size, these events became much more elaborate.
The usual holiday and birthday parties soon became group trapeze lessons and 200-person city-wide scavenger hunts; there have been employee appreciation weeks with in-office spa treatments. The operations team also led our philanthropy efforts and all the granular duties of office management and administration. Even the snacks we offer in our kitchen fell under its purview.
The person tasked with leading these activities and safeguarding the entire employee experience became absolutely essential. So, we went ahead and made it official, developing the brand new role of Employee Experience Champion. It gets posted on job boards and explained to recruiters when there’s a vacancy, and it has become as critical as any role in our company.
The search for our most recent Employee Experience Champion was viewed as so important that a top-tier referral bonus was offered — the same as for an SVP or member of executive management. The clamor for making the correct hiring decision from dozens of qualified candidates became so crazed that we arranged meet-and-greets for employees and allowed them to vote on video submissions from the applicants.
In the end, the hiring process reinforced our core beliefs: That people want to work where they feel valued and appreciated, and the culture fostered for employees is every bit as important as any other aspect of your organization.
Lego Masters, This Is Your Moment
Gallery Night is an annual event where our agency members showcase their talents and interests outside of work. We have painters, sculptors, poets, dancers, singers, Lego masters and board-game enthusiasts, just to name a few.
Precision For Value
A Room With a View
Right outside our Costa Mesa office is the famous Noguchi Garden, one of the country’s most important public sculpture gardens. Its design is intended to symbolize various geographical characteristics of the state of California — but for those of us in the PFV-LA office, it means a lot more than that.
It’s a place to look at from our conference room and see lots of entertaining people. Among the recent sightings: Star Wars characters, photo and video shoots with costumed people and even some weddings.
Pharma Marketing Meets Planet Hollywood
As an industry, pharma has stepped away from storytelling as a fundamental way to communicate — which is unfortunate, because emotions and lessons are best delivered through experiential stories. Our agency had to figure out a way to saturate and marinate our people and clients in the idea of storytelling as the foundation of everything we do. The solution: To evolve our environment to showcase moments from our favorite movies, TV shows and plays, as well as the impactful characters who play in those worlds.
Everyone must take a unique journey to become a hero (or the best version of him or herself), so we created an atmosphere that stimulates and awakens the inner hero through storytelling. Now, when any unsuspecting person steps into our building, they’re caught off-guard by our Hollywoodesque appearance. They find themselves immersed in classic storytelling moments that can make anyone feel like a superhero. This is what we are all about: Helping people identify themselves as the hero of their own personal story.
Our Hollywood Hero experience begins at the front entrance and carries through to the exit. One of our meeting rooms — The Superhero Room, of course — is even covered wall-to-wall in superhero props, posters and statues.
An adjacent room is known as The MacGuffin (defined as “an object or device in a movie or a book that serves merely as a trigger for the plot”). This room features many of the most famous and coveted movie MacGuffins: The One Ring to Rule Them All (from The Lord Of The Rings), The Maltese Falcon, The Pink Panther diamond and an official Red Ryder carbine-action two-hundred-shot range model air rifle (from A Christmas Story).
As you walk down the hall, you’ll see that the hero-journey theme isn’t confined to just a few meeting rooms. The walls are lined with polished Star Wars helmets, robots from ’80s movies, mementos from James Bond’s wardrobe and enough Disney memorabilia to open our own theme park. We try to match our surroundings with the belief that there’s a hero inside each and every one of us. And all we need to do is find the best moments in our ongoing stories to unlock them.