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January 29, 2010

Do we really need the office?

It seems to be an often-asked question in the minds of agency people everywhere, and the answer seems to be that "there are just some things that have to be done face to face." One of those "some things" that comes up a lot in discussions I have about this very topic is brainstorming.

Sure, we could just call in or get on iChat, but it wouldn't be the same. There's just something about the creative momentum that forms when a few talented people get together in a physical room that can't be translated into 1s and 0s.


Shit. Maybe not. This bunch of obviously talented created people fired up their webcams, grabbed their instruments and made something that sings. No pun intended. 

Now, before you say anything, yes -- I know that making music isn't exactly the same as making advertising. But I would argue that much of the process is the same. Mountains of details have to be worked out. Tone and voice and everybody's roles have to be discussed. And most importantly, ideas have flow freely amongst colleagues in order to transform an idea into a Big Idea. 

These guys obviously did all that (quite well) without ever, at any time, being in the same room. Hell, most of them weren't even in the same COUNTRY. So why do we have to be? Why do we have to do in cubes what we could be doing from home or Rome or...wherever? 

It's a question that I, for one, am going to keep asking. I hope somebody can give me an answer that makes sense one of these days. If you think you have one, feel free to share it in the comments.

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Comments

I remember reading articles in the late 90's about how, in advertising, we'd work from home in a couple of years. I've been waiting ever since.

Hi,

In fact we're starting up an cooperative ad agency in Belgium, a bit like St Luke's did back in the 90's in the UK. We want to avoid that our Idea Machine turns into a Money Machine.. so open bookkeeping, no media or production fee.. mainly experienced people.. one man=one vote, only heads, no overheads.. so no company cars or macs.. and maybe no offices! So we're really interested in other agencies/companies who have experience with that..

I advocate no offices. Not sure on how to get people connected though,

Maybe a webcam, maybe video conferencing.

The main thing to watch for is deadlines and accountability. If there was a way to react to something as people are creating, like a CD would do walking into a room, rather than waiting for a specific meeting time to react, it would be great.

Maybe it can be done with remote desktop or something like that, or really just getting people to video conference.

Other ideas?

Marcelo,

As far as deadlines and accountability, the solution is the same as when we work in the office. If somebody can't get quality work done in a timely manner, they probably won't last all that long in this business. Sure, getting that work done without a supervisor in the room might require a little more self-discipline -- but we are adults, after all.

And as for remote collaboration and creative discussion, I'm starting to notice a lot of online solutions that could fit the bill very well. For copywriters, both Google Documents (docs.google.com) and MS Office 2008 offer online viewing and editing functionality. For ADs, solutions are more sparse, but products like ConceptShare (ConceptShare.com) are really starting to come into their own.

It is pretty amazing what you can get when you bring together creativity, a powerful message, and today's communication technology.

Sounds like Advertising.

@Nick

I like that ConceptShare thing. It's really cool, interesting, and could definitely be the next step toward a no office environment.

One other thing. It seems to me that agencies/studios spend such a huge amount of money in making the office space work for creativity and inspiring, but then we're having to make up for that in billable hours.

It'd be just as easy to work in a "virtual office" and cash all the money with no worries about overhead.

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