Now that's creative freedom

Advertising staff are being given ways to fulfil themselves within the firms that fostered them, says Roger Trapp

Until the arrival of hi-tech companies, there can have been few better examples of the hard-driving work culture than the advertising industry. Inspired by the excitement of working in a business that is highly creative yet subject to extreme commercial pressures, agency staff often put in long and generally well-rewarded hours. But then they strike out on their own to get more balance into their lives.

The result, says Marco Rimini, director of strategy and development in the London office of the J Walter Thompson advertising agency, is that organisations can lose talented personnel on whom they have spent a great deal of money recruiting and training. It is a problem that more and more senior executives claim has the potential to rival the internet and globalisation in terms of the challenges facing them.

To address this issue, JWT has come up with an initiative designed to enable its staff to have the security that most desire at the same time as the flexibility that is becoming increasingly necessary.

Mr Rimini says the move is not an attempt to cut the business's costs by putting some people on short-term contracts or a freelance basis. Instead, the agency is presenting it as "the ideal solution" to a dilemma facing many advertising agency planners.

The dilemma is how to keep up the creativity, teamwork and fun parts of working in an agency, yet at the same time make room for work on interesting personal projects which have the potential to generate personal income.

JWT, one of the best-known advertising agencies with clients that include Kellogg's, Unilever and Shell, is not the only business to be looking at this sort of approach. Several years ago, for example, the financial information provider Reuters created a "virtual organisation", drawing on experts in various fields to produce screens better suited to customers' needs.

More recently, Lloyds TSB launched a programme designed to give nearly all its employees the opportunity to work flexibly, provided they could make a sound business case for it. The bank already had many people - largely women - working flexibly under ad hoc schemes, but it wanted to move flexible working away from being just an issue for women with children.

Business considerations are also driving Mr Rimini's thinking. Those becoming part of "atJWT" - as the attempt to - enlarge the agency's "pool of talent" is known - will be carefully screened to ensure that they are offering services the organisation can genuinely use and that they are capable of working alone without direct supervision. They will also be given financial targets to meet.

"It's not driven by a short-term profit motive," says Mr Rimini, while stressing that "the hard-nosed business side of it" is that the agency is seeking to derive income from the venture.

But, beyond providing a space within the firm's Berkeley Square offices for the people to work in if required, he insists he is not worried about how they go about their projects. It is likely that those involved will spend some time in the offices meeting each other and clients, and the rest working from home.

In the interests of maintaining quality levels, and making it possible to manage, he sees the initiative involving only about 10 people initially, though he accepts that if the idea is taken up internationally it could mushroom.

The first recruit is JWT's planning director, Meny Baskin, who will spend part of her week in that role and the rest with atJWT.

JWT prides itself on an enlightened employment policy that it believes contributes to a low staff turnover rate. But Ms Baskin says: "This just has to be a better way of working."

As Mr Rimini explains: "You have to have the best people. And to get the best people, you have to organise yourself in a way that they are motivated rather than being asked to work in a particular sort of way."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Services - City, London

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions