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Real-Life Mad Men: Office Furniture From 5 Modern Ad Agencies

Fans of Mad Men are as obsessed with the style of the show as they are with Don Draper’s adventures in advertising. The clothes the characters wear, the set design of the offices they inhabit, and even the office furniture itself all make a statement about the world they inhabit.

Set designer Amy Wells obviously carefully selects colors, furnishings, and art to reflect the character of each office. Don’t believe us? Contrast the mid-century modern splendor of Sterling Cooper with the mod color blocking of the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. (There’s also probably some symbolism about that missing second floor, but that’s another post entirely.)

Of course, looking current and hip has always been important to ad agencies. Their offices are more than just work space: they’re a chance to express their brand to potential clients, and differentiate themselves from the competition.

Here are some modern ad agencies that use their office furniture to make a statement about their own brand.

5. Grey Group, New York


Why you know them: Founded as Grey Advertising in 1917, this is one of the granddaddies of the ad industry, with offices and clients all over the world. Its largest division Grey EMEA is the most awarded agency at the European Effectiveness Awards, and they have Clios to spare. Grey’s clients include Google, Proctor & Gamble, and GlaxoSmithKline, but you probably know them best for those creepy talking E-Trade babies.

Today’s open office little resembles Duck Phillips’ “Penn Station toilet with venetian blinds” of the Mad Men-era Grey, but it’s still pretty basic for an industry famous for its over-the-top corporate offices. You won’t find stunt furnishings or pop art here. In fact, Grey only recently moved to the open-plan office, ditching both office cubicles and private offices when it consolidated from 26 floors to six.

The new plan is intended to foster creativity and openness, but has reportedly been a bit of a shock to long-time employees.

4. Mother, London


Why you know them: Mother might be the Anti-Grey. Founded in 1996 around a kitchen table, Mother now has offices in London, New York and Buenos Aires. They’ve done ad campaigns for Stella Artois, Coca-Cola, and Pablo the Drug Mule Dog. (OK, that last campaign was actually for the National Drugs Helpline. Pablo’s just the star.)

Probably Mother’s greatest claim to fame, though, is its table. No, not the one that it was founded around, although that might be the inspiration for the current version. See, employees at Mother’s don’t work in cubes, or offices, or even a few collaborative work stations. Instead, they work around a concrete table so large it seats 200 and takes up several floors interrupted by staircases as necessary.

3. Nothing, Amsterdam


Why you know them: They’re new — as in, founded in 2009 new — but they’ve already done work for MTV and Comedy Central. Also, their site hilariously lists their clients in two buckets: Pre-Nothing, and Nothing. Which, you have to wonder, is better?

Probably the coolest thing about Nothing, other than their weirdly existential name, is that the whole office is made out of cardboard. It’s strangely beautiful, and expresses their philosophy perfectly, but it also looks like it would make a great kid’s room.

2. BBDO, Mumbai, India


Why you know them: BBDO is one of the biggest global ad agencies. It’s also one of the oldest, with roots going back to 1891, and was dubbed the “Most Awarded Agency Network in the World” by the Gunn Report in 2007. According the Mad Men Creator Matthew Weiner, BBDO was the inspiration for Sterling Cooper. Their clients include GE, Starbucks, AT&T, Pepsi, Gillette and almost anyone else you can think of.

BBDO is headquartered in New York, but has over 17,000 employees in offices all over the world. One challenge with such a global brand is making sure that each office is in sync with the community. After all, you can’t have advertising without communication.

BBDO India in Mumbai solved this problem by designing a whole office inspired by Gandhi’s ashram. The walls are decorated with Warli art, and a traditional spinning wheel hangs by reception. With straw mats on the floor and a writing desk that resembles the one used by Gandhi himself, BBDO India is, as chairman Josy Paul says, “the architectural living poster” of Gandhi.

1. Dentsu, Londondentsu

Why you know them: Dentsu is another venerable advertising institution, founded in 1901 in Tokyo. They now have offices all over Asia, Europe and the Americas. In terms of clients, they’ve worked with Canon, Hitachi … and the Pokemon Group.

The London office is affectionately known as “the spaceship” by its employees, and it’s easy to see why. Reception looks like the entrance to a cargo bay in a sci-fi movie, and the creative spaces look like a library as envisioned by Stanley Kubrick. Add padded meeting rooms and a penthouse boardroom, and you have the coolest corporate spaceship ever designed.

Images: 5., 4., 3., 2., 1.

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