Each September we take Alice (10) to WH Smiths for a new pencil case, an on-trend backpack, a fresh flask and lunchbox and an illuminous haul of wholly superfluous stationery.
It’s become ritual. A necessary rite of passage as she sashays (yes, she sashays and usually “like a Slay Queen”) into a new school year. It’s always soberingly expensive, especially considering the well-stocked and largely under-pillaged stationary cupboards I have access to at work, but, all-in-all, money well spent. Why? Because it helps her re-set and head into the Autumn term with the confidence and swagger only a passion-fruit-scented eraser can elicit.
This year I’ve gone to grab a few bits for myself because we’re off to new offices in October and I have a bunch of WPP colleagues who might be too busy to judge my notebook, backpack, or lunchbox game… but might not.
After a hugely successful and transformative decade at The Buckley Building, it is time for the next chapter at H+K LDN to play out, a mile or two south of Clerkenwell Green, in an area once renowned for the dubious revelry to be had among the stews, bear-baiting arenas and Shakespearian era playhouses. These days, alongside just the playhouses thankfully, it’s fast becoming the established epicentre (and week-day playground) of the creative industries and media behemoths. Those looking to ‘stew’ or ‘bait’ are very well hidden or, more likely, priced out.
At H+K we proudly claim to be Always in Beta, so what better (beta?) way to stay fresh, keep innovating and find new momentum and purpose than a new space? Far from being a leap into the unknown, it feels like a natural next step and one in tune with our own purpose and values. We’re taking our rightful place dead-centre at WPP (for some here that’s still a nebulous, yet-to-be-discovered entity which will, I hope, deliver potential in spades) and, of course, we’re slap bang in the heart of agency-land.
Clients will feel the contextual might and scale of our parent when they come see us, which will be great, and will make more tangible the wider talent pool we have access to, but, more importantly, I hope everyone at H+K will feel that energy too. Our behavioural scientists make compelling use of loss aversion as a powerful (de)motivator and there is no doubt that change can be challenging with its ability to unsettle, prompt speculation, or invite nervousness – and, for the record, there is no doubt we will be ‘giving up’ as well as gaining. But we should feel confident that the re-calibration will be net positive. It’s been easy to celebrate the independence of our own address but not see quite how much of an outlier it may have rendered us at times.
I’m a firm believer in what happens ‘in-between’ at agencies… I mean the power of the corridor stroll, the value of the kitchen brainstorm or the water-cooler moments that can break open a brief. So much of the good work during in-office days occurs in these ‘third spaces’, beyond the head-down focus of your desk or the walled-in necessity of a meeting room. So, bring on Rose Court and all it offers in terms of unexplored spaces to roam, new nooks to inspire creativity, and fresh corners to collaborate in.
BTW, I refuse to say ‘campus’ out loud. For some reason it prompts flashbacks (for me at least) of mid-eighties teen movies, so I’ll still be calling it ‘the office’ but each to their own. We have a very swanky new space to call home and, as importantly, hundreds of smart, talented people who were always colleagues once removed but, like family cousins of the same ilk, were too rarely seen. Now we’ll be properly in amongst it, and we need to go in hard, looking to be additive, keen to breathe our own unique energy into the building and the community.
And it would be wrong to swerve the fact that moving into a new, serviced, multi-agency space means some very tough implications for some of our colleagues. Many of them have carried our culture and agency ‘magic’ through several significant changes over the years. Their contribution is quite impossible to measure but is felt by, I would think, every single person at H+K and, frankly, that is a gift that will be missed more than we might realise.
One thing is more certain than anything – all the great moments, meaningful work and success that happened here at The Buckley will be fondly recalled in exaggerated ‘rememberings’ and tall tales, some told over drinks on our new, sexy rooftop bar. They will become part of our unfolding agency story as surely as the Soho Square days have been remembered in recent times and that’s exactly how it should be: Always in Beta.
Open mind: check. Brand new pencil case: check.