In Mad Men's season 3, the protagonist, Don Draper, referred to the old-guard ad agency, McCann Erickson (then riding high for its 1963 campaign 'Things Go Better With Coke') as a 'sausage factory.' After the show aired in 2009, McCann posted on its website a humorous, fast-paced 'commercial' collaging the many mentions of the firm on the show and welcoming Draper's fictional Sterling Cooper agency to its precincts (see it on YouTube). Then, a few years later, McCann decided its New York headquarters were ready for a new look.
Was the decision to redesign five floors of a Midtown Manhattan high-rise related to the company's depiction as overly staid on Mad Men? 'Absolutely not,' says Linus Karllson, McCann's chief creative officer of global brands at the time. But he acknowledges that the workplace 'wasn't necessarily as inspiring as it needed to be.' He started conversations with Brian Berry, design director at Gensler, and Tom Dixon, the British designer, whose idiosyncratic furniture, lighting, and accessories Karllson admires.
Karllson wanted the new design to reflect McCann's 100-year history yet create a setting that reflects today's work patterns and attitudes. It would attract young creative people, spark their imagination, and show clients that the agency that came up with L'Oreal's 'Because I'm worth it' (in 1973) was still worth buying into.
The design team aimed to bring a domestic feeling to the office landscape, punched up with a certain razzmatazz through quirky furnishings and lighting. It would combine the informality of the technosphere of Silicon Valley and elsewhere with the super-cool, lounge-lizard atmosphere of lobbies at the Standard or Ace hotels in New York and Los Angeles. To foster casual interaction among the McCann staff, the design team introduced living room' or caf'-like settings in double-height atriums created by cutting away ceilings between two different pairs of floors. In addition, the team banished private offices from the glazed perimeter walls, replacing them with long, white, partitionless desks and opening the views of Midtown to everyone. Instead of corner offices, variegated seating ensembles provide places for quiet conversation. Glass-enclosed conference rooms, meeting areas, and single-occupancy phone rooms (plus some private offices for executives) are arrayed around the elevator core.
A loftlike look with concrete-aggregate floors and exposed ceilings adds to the downtown aesthetic; Tom Dixon's large easy chairs, curved sofas, and copper lamps lend a certain outr' quality. Features such as living-plant partitions or charred-wood walls let you know you are no longer in the corporate environment of ultra-restrained design. But to remind clients of the firm's history, graphic touches abound, such as old illustrations by Theodore Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, who worked in the art department as a young man.
Since McCann renovated 107,500 square feet on five floors in 2013, it has found that its new interiors serve it well. The agency noted that the design, fostering collaboration, flexibility, and spontaneity, improved its business record in 2014: it won a significant number of pitches to potential clients, including Microsoft, and earned over $150 million in revenue, a 15 percent increase over the prior year's approximate $130 million. With new clients including Cigna, Jose Cuervo, and Lockheed Martin, the agency reports the number of employees also increased last year, by 21 percent. Now its New York office is expanding to two more floors. The firm has not lost its sense of history, but it is looking ahead'beyond Mad Men.
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Architect of record: Gensler
Associate architect(s): Tom Dixon, 27th Floor only
Interior designer: Gensler
Engineers: Robert Derector Associates
Audio Visual: Spectra Audio Design Group
Project Management: Macro Consultants
General contractor: J.T. Magen & Company, Inc.
McCann © Emily Andrews, courtesy of Gensler
Wood doors: William Somerville, Inc.
Plantings: DIRTT (27th floor), DIRTT Office fronts (floors 23-26)
Security devices: Maglocks- Securitron
Other special hardware: Pivots- Ives, Edge Pulls- Tydix, Floor Closers- Rixson
Suspension grid: Armstrong
Demountable partitions: DIRTT
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: William Somerville, Inc.
Restrooms: Toto Sinks, Faucets, WCs
Drinking Fountains: Oasis