The agency Christmas party. Camaraderie without strings or the last bastion of inappropriate behavior?

December 19, 2008

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I’ll answer my own question. It’s both. And, in my opinion, both are desirable phenomenon. I’ve likened working in an agency to being in a submarine. After a year of attacking new business, discovering ideas and evading torpedoes it’s time to come up for air! Especially this year. With such choppy seas, we could all use the break. The fact that our agency did so well is a major blessing and should rightly be shared by all who earned it.

For ours, we’re planning a company meeting followed by an employee dance contest later at a nightclub. Of course, the usual speeches will be made beforehand and employee prizes given out. If all goes well, by 8PM everyone will be in some form of “state” and the true fun can begin.

Growing up at Leo Burnett, as I did, I got to participate in some of the biggest holiday-themed parties known in our industry. Forever, The Leo Burnett “Breakfast” was both famous and infamous. During flush years, the company could easily drop hundreds of thousands on the event. First would come the morning meeting and breakfast, usually someplace iconic to Chicago, like the Chicago Theatre or Medinah Temple. During this time, speeches were given, and some fairly unbelievable skits were either put on live or shown via film. These productions were eagerly anticipated and, subsequently, a great deal of time and money went into making them. Some years they were far superior to a majority of commercials on the agency reel.

After “breakfast” everyone would traipse, en masse back to the office to exchange gifts, doll up for later and receive their typically ample bonus checks. The last point here is a big one. Without giving names or numbers, I will tell you it was commonplace for LBCO stars, and plenty were deemed fit, to get more money on this day than in a whole year.

After getting bonuses, all the employees would head out to their specific group’s party, eventually convening in one or two massive clusters, which could get pretty gnarly. Here the newly rich and totally drunk began the timeless tradition of hopelessly inappropriate behavior. Trust me, I know of what I speak. This was when all the “I love you, man” speeches got made, where unrequited office romances requited, often in heated and embarrassing ways. Bosses. Secretaries. Married. Single. And so on. For better and worse the LBCO office party (and I imagine many others) was the last bastion of “Mad Men” like behavior.

What a company! And surely it was. But remember, back then my beloved Leo Burnett was private and most years were good ones. That is not the case right now and has not been for years. Still, I’m guessing the Burnett Breakfast will have its allure.

And for us? We’ve had a good year, thank God. I’m looking forward to our party. As Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, I’m actually a host. I get to show some work, talk about it. And because I really want people to hate me, I’m reading a salty holiday poem as well: “T’was the night before our Christmas party and all through Euro RS, not a creative was stirring, unless in front of Ron Bess.” You see where that’s going.

Originality is not mandatory at the office Christmas party. Frankly, one could make the argument that originality is not required for Christmas at all. Quite the contrary. Holiday is about tradition.

From the ubiquitous cookie tins in every cube to the drunken media planner making out with Seth from IT, I want everything to stay the same, year after year. Frankly, I look forward to it!

3 Responses to “The agency Christmas party. Camaraderie without strings or the last bastion of inappropriate behavior?”

  1. Jason Fox said

    What is this strange world of which you speech where people in advertising have both fun and make money? If I may quote Liz Lemon, I want to go to there.

  2. SRP said

    Jason-
    I’ve said this many, many times: Advertising has been a blessing to me. The turn-around of EuroRSCG Chicago brings me so much pride and satisfaction…
    Far more than say, some ill-gotten bronze lion at Cannes!

  3. hmm…

    It looks like I have found a new blog to read.🙂

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