In your space: .99 turns an old warehouse into an office clients want to visit

Much like Clemenger Shop today, .99 originally shared office space with Colenso BBDO. However, while Clemenger’s new shopper marketer offering is still in its infancy, .99 has since moved out of its first home on College Hill and now employs over 120 people at a formidable space on Richmond Road. 

Last year, the luminescent crown sitting atop the .99 building was modified slightly as the JustOne logo was added to the design following the merger between the agencies in April.    

This branding update was also incorporated throughout the interior to ensure a sense of uniformity across the offering. And despite introducing a new agency and all the staff that came with it, managing director Ben Goodale says that the changes to the space required only “slight renovations”.

But, as the design team found out, even simple changes can sometimes generate a fair bit of frustration. And nowhere was this more evident than when it came to updating the backdrop of the entrance foyer.  

“The wall behind the reception area is made out of cardboard,” says Goodale.  “[It] was made using a computerised cutting device and it took two or three attempts. Working with cardboard is a delicate process and even slight mistakes tend to be very obvious.”

The carboard kinks were eventually ironed out, and the team was able to update the wall that has for the last six years served as the backdrop to the front desk made from the recycled rubber of car tyres.

In 2008, the building underwent a major refurbishment and, given that the management teams at both JustOne and .99 were satisfied with the overall aesthetics of the space, it was decided that a major renovation was not required after the merger.

As a corollary of the decision not to change the structure of the building, management had to find a way to fit in the extra bodies that came with JustOne’s arrival.

“Advertising is very collaborative work. So we tend to think strategically about where we put people around the office,” says Goodale.

Goodale believes that by keeping like-minded employees in the same vicinity, it makes them feel more comfortable to be at work—and this, he says, is more conducive to creativity.

“I think if you create a great workspace, it lifts the mood of the people. You spend a lot time at the office, especially in advertising, and this makes it important to have a space that people enjoy being in.”

This philosophy is further emphasised through the incorporation of a zonal music system that allows different departments (or groups) to personalise their music selections.  

“Even within an agency, people have different approaches. It’s the little things that make all the difference. For example, we wired the office’s sound system, so that music can be selected zonally. This allows teams in different zones to select their music wirelessly through Spotify or iTunes. We put in this system to give us flexibility and to accommodate the different tastes of people in the office.”

The focus on accommodating different people is also extended to the clients, in the sense that the office has been kitted out with a varied range of breakout areas, including standard boardroom-style meeting rooms, colourful pods and round meeting areas.

In a nod to the retail industry, the pods are encircled with the drop-down plastic sheets that often typify the entrances of bakeries, delis and butcheries.  

Despite the segmentation of the staff into like-minded groups, there is also a sense of uniformity across the space due to the open-plan office design.  

“I think for me it’s that I want to see our people,” says Goodale. “The people are our asset. I want clients to feel that they are in the agency when they visit. It’s important to create the sense of people being creative. And the open-plan design means that people aren’t locked away.”

He says that the open-plan design also better enables him to fulfil his responsibilities, in the sense that he always feels involved with the team.  

“As a manager, being able to see people helps me to be more engaged in the day-to-day and it enables me to contribute more easily. I have glass doors they’re open most of the time in any case. This is very different to what I experienced earlier in my career.”

When Goodale started his career in the UK in the 80s, he says that senior management figures were usually confined to offices and were thus separated from the day-to-day happenings at the agency.

He does however add that the open-plan design for office space is nothing new and that “ad agencies have always been quite interesting creative spaces”. He says that this creativity has allowed ad agencies to stay “ahead of the game” when it comes to designing office spaces. So, although banks and other industries are now for the first time seeing value in shifting away from cold, corporate designs, creative agencies have been taking this approach for decades.

And, when it comes to .99, the decision to continue this creative office space tradition has resulted in clients enjoying their time at the agency so much that they even want to be there when they aren’t working on .99-associated projects.

According to Goodale, the agency often receives requests from clients to host meetings at one of the chic breakout areas. And, while slightly unconventional, the managing director says he always welcomes this increased engagement with business partners.

“There’s a symbiotic relationship between clients and agencies,” he says. “We often have clients in the building, and I always encourage them to spend as much time as they want to with us.” 

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