by Chris Ableidinger
On February 26th, 2016, myself and two other students from the University of Oregon had the chance to visit the Portland office of Wieden + Kennedy. The visit was part of the Career Center's Career Insight Road Trip, and provided us a glimpse into the world of media and communications from inside a high profile advertising agency.
It can be hard to pay attention to your guide as you are taken through the renovated Pearl District warehouse home to the Portland office of Wieden and Kennedy. Myself, Kenzie, and Caitlin spent an amazing day traveling through the creative bowels of W+K digesting everything we saw around us and leaving with new perspectives on the industry as a whole.
Here are the eight things we just could not stop staring at:
1. The People
You can't help but stare at the people of W+K the moment you walk through the door, not because of their appearance, but because their portraits dress the walls of the entrance. Many agencies and other businesses display their awards for their visitor's first impressions. W+K literally shows that its people come first.
2. The Art
A totem pole and wooden beaver are some of the many great works of art, but perhaps none are as stunning as the Bird's Nest. Elements of past campaigns for Coca-Cola, Nike, and other clients also decorate the office, infusing the ambience of the space with an appreciation for past work.
3. The Informal Lounges
Everywhere you look there seem to be couches, tables, and chairs. Every place is a good place to talk with someone. Every employee dresses how they want to dress. A pattern of equity and community emerges.
4. The View from the Top Floor
The balcony provides a breathtaking panoramic view of Portland, the launching pad from which W+K became an international agency. By refusing to sell out to a holding company, W+K has remained an independent agency capable of establishing its own culture and clients.
(The one in the middle is me, Kenzie is to my left, Caitlin to my right)
5. The Auditorium
The whole agency meets at the heart of the building to share campaigns and do some general interdepartmental mingling. The bleacher seating evokes a summer camp atmosphere that reflects the social bonding of the agency, regardless of account.
6. Our Hosts
The three of us were lucky enough to meet with nine(!) media planners and other specialists including Grant, Chris, Matt, Vinu, Danny, Jonathan, Vivian, and two Ryans. We cannot thank them enough for sharing insight on their career development and personal paths to W+K (spoiler alert: W+K employees come from very diverse backgrounds). Perhaps the biggest takeaway was the relaxed and rapid-fire interactions amongst our hosts and other W+K employees; comfort and chemistry with coworkers is the number one ingredient for creativity.
7. The Media Plans
As an advertising student specializing in media planning I could spend pages discussing the presentation decks, media flowcharts, and other documents that our hosts shared with us. I found some of the data visualization used to present a plan particularly useful for my own work. Media planners are increasingly working with influencers such as Youtube stars, bloggers, and other digital mavens trusted by specific audiences while ad blocking software continues to be a conundrum for media buyers and sellers alike. It was great to see how new trends in our own personal online behavior are paramount issues to be understood in the media and communications industry.
8. The Door In
Back on the streets of Portland, you can't help but look back at the big doorway to W+K's great culture and great work. The three of us concurred it would be a thrilling place to work. From our experience came a renewed focus on identifying and honing our professional skills, and discovering what we can offer to a place like Wieden + Kennedy that will, someday, be worth staring at.