A Job Well Done

If you walk into associate media director Gina Rodarte’s office at Deutsch/LA, you might be puzzled to see a plaster bust of Beethoven, on a heavy mahogany base that holds an etched gold plaque, sitting by her stereo and lava lamp.

Rodarte says she was “surprised and honored” when she was handed the bust at the shop’s state-of-the-union meeting a month ago. The award, described by managing partner and general manager Mike Sheldon as “big and silly” and “way over the top,” is the agency’s way of singling out a half-dozen exceptional staffers each year. Matt Jarvis had been at Deutsch—on Beethoven Street in Marina del Rey, Calif.—for less than a year when he got the honor in 2001. “I was completely flabbergasted,” says the vp and account planner. “Beethovens reward passion, and it’s a nice way of saying, ‘We think your way of doing what you do is an important piece of the fabric of who we are.’ “

Whether it’s with cash or campy statuettes, an official thank-you goes a long way toward stoking employees’ loyalty and enthusiasm. (And as noted here in “Money Matters,” it takes more than money to keep workers satisfied.) “Anything you do to recognize people’s contributions loudly, publicly and frequently is a morale builder,” says Allen Rosenshine, chairman and CEO of BBDO Worldwide.

That Omnicom agency has programs to honor longtime staffers, as well as the Dillon Prize, for the person who shares the dedication, integrity and leadership of Tom Dillon, chairman of BBDO in the ’60s and ’70s. “They gave it based on a combination of having done really good work and having an extremely low likelihood of moving to another agency,” jokes Charlie Miesmer, vice chairman and senior ecd, who won the Dillon two years ago. The BBDO lifer—he joined right after college—hasn’t yet collected his prize, a two-week trip to anywhere in the world. His boss, Ted Sann, gave him the nod in front of about 800 staffers. “It was absolutely terrifying,” says Miesmer, but adds, “I was honored and quite flattered.”

Like Miesmer, Foote Cone & Belding’s Jan Weinstein was taken aback to find herself in the spotlight. “I was speechless,” says the svp and group media director, who silently retrieved her Tim Elliott Award at a company meeting last year, where her image appeared on a movie screen after a short film about Elliott. The award honors a New York staffer who’s following in the footsteps of Elliott, a Brit with a unique irreverence and wit who died in 1999. Weinstein won a trip—she and her family went to the Galapagos islands—and a bottle of Dom Perignon. Elliott’s widow, Daryl, also sent a bottle. (“She said Tim would say one bottle was never enough,” says Weinstein.)

A four-year staffer, Weinstein says she was tremendously moved by the honor. “It validated my approach to business and how I manage,” she says. FCB doles out several other awards as well—to a creative team, to the team that has collaborated best on a campaign and to the staffer who’s made the biggest impact on the agency.

Not all agency stars get trips to exotic destinations—Deutsch’s Beethoven does not come with a financial reward, and nor do Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s Soul Award and Momentum Award. It’s the thought that counts. “The recognition is more important than dinner,” says Colin Probert, president of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which gives a check meant to cover an evening at a top San Francisco restaurant to its employee of the month.

Like the Beethoven, CP+B’s two 3-foot-tall plastic trophies are “big, goofy, over the top”—but heartfelt, says agency partner and director of account services Jeff Steinhour. He explains that the Soul Award goes to a veteran staffer who “best protects and moves the culture forward.” (Last year’s winner was creative director Andrew Keller.) The Momentum Award is given to “a human tornado,” the employee with the most frenetic pace. (Last year that was CFO Eric Lear.)

The Miami-based agency also recognizes staffers in other ways, parlaying handouts from clients into prize trips to Telluride, London or Club Med. “We spend as much time thinking about how to make employees happy and give back to them as we do about advertising,” says Steinhour.