Money Isn’t Everything

Sometimes a job is about more than money. Perhaps, along with your paycheck, you’d like a break for a beer and videogame down the hall, a massage maybe, or possibly a spin in a new sports car.

“This is better than any therapist could ever do for me,” says Dory Anderson, a partner at Carmichael Lynch’s PR unit, of driving around town in the shop’s Boxster. Each month, keys to the Porsche—which is a client of the Minneapolis agency—go to a team that has done something original to boost a client’s business.

During the boom, agencies lured the best people by throwing perks on top of paychecks. Now, with agencies working leaner—and morale wearing thin—shops are looking to the little things to keep staff from straying or burning out.

“Three years ago, people were doing crazy things to hire talented people. My attitude is, we should be doing that all the time,” says Chuck Porter, chairman of Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami, which offers its staff use of a PT Cruiser (soon to be replaced by a Mini) and a concierge service that will book a ticket or make a reservation. (That’s in addition to an upcoming Bahamas vacation for all 180 staffers, funded by the agency’s $100,000 Kelly Award prize.)

At Leo Burnett in Chicago, its 2,000 or so staffers hang out in “energy rooms”—stocked with snacks and refreshments (including beer), videogames and DVD players—and go on company-sponsored summer outings. “A big part of what makes Leo Burnett Leo Burnett are the benefits,” says Lander Brown, evp of human resources. Those include traditions—the annual holiday breakfast at which top execs mug their way through skits, for example—as well as practical perks, such as a staff concierge. “The things that help [people] do their jobs, that’s what we’ve found is most important,” says Brown.

At McKinney + Silver in Raleigh, N.C., staffers are treated to a weekly in-house yoga class and a monthly visit from a masseuse, who offers head and neck relief. “Being in the ad industry is not just a career, it’s a lifestyle,” says COO Joani Madison.

In a creative industry, some perks reflect the staff’s creative impulses. Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore., doles out so-called SlimeMold grants to fund ideas that might otherwise go nowhere. One recent winner was able to record local street musicians playing with professional artists; proceeds from the CD will go to charity. At Fallon in Minneapolis, staffers can petition to take an extra two weeks of paid vacation (and set aside some of their salary, which the company will match to a certain level) to pursue a lifelong dream, whether it be working on a book or running with the bulls.

With perks now geared more toward retention than recruitment, they’ve become less flashy and more focused on making work and home life easier—better healthcare coverage or more inviting work spaces, for example. Burnett recently started covering adoption costs. McKinney’s new offices, set to open next year, will include lactation rooms.

As more agencies provide such services, they are becoming de rigueur industrywide. Summer hours, for instance, are now a staple at most shops, and sabbaticals are increasingly common. “They’re a big deal in terms of being able to refresh yourself,” says Brown. (Burnett is looking into the option.)

Sometimes, the best incentives help inspire the staff to do better. Every year at Saatchi & Saatchi, worldwide creative director Bob Isherwood leads a panel to tap a staffer in each of its two U.S. offices (New York and Los Angeles) who has gone beyond the call of duty. Winners get a free vacation of their choosing—recent destinations have included the Sundance Film Festival in Utah and Carnival in Rio. The promise of a Porsche helps motivate teams at CL. “We sit down in meetings and say, ‘Is this idea going to get us the Boxster?’ ” says Anderson, whose American Standard team at the Carmichael Lynch Spong unit won the car for their ideas on launching a new toilet. “This is probably one of the best perks. It rivals our Christmas break.”

Naturally, there is a downside—the best perks are rarely permanent. Hours after taking the Boxster on a spin one sunny September afternoon, Anderson had to cede the keys to another team member for the weekend.