‘Shock and surprise’: How UK agencies are celebrating this Christmas


The arrival of December has sounded the bell for Christmas-party season.

Adland has a reputation for the most wacky and raucous parties of them all, although this year they’ll have increased competition from Asian and American revelers cashing in on the weakened pound. We caught up with several U.K. agencies as they prepare for another year of festivities, aspirin at the ready.

Ghosts of Grey London’s Christmas past

Grey London’s literary bash
If last year is any indication, Grey London is in for a lavish treat this holiday season. Based on Erin Morgenstern’s 2011 novel “The Night Circus,” the agency’s Christmas party took place in an events space under Waterloo station, The Vaults Gallery

Each room inside the venue was transformed into a different chapter from the fantasy book with the help of actors, props and lighting — a “step up” from last year’s Christmas Carol-themed affair. There was a deconstructed Ferris wheel, fake zebras and a secret maze with a real oak tree at its middle (shipped in especially for the party).

After celebrating around the Christmas tree and at Grey’s open bar, the team put on their 1950s circus garb — think lion tamers and dapper guests — before heading to the venue. “With all our Christmas and summer parties, we mix the new and old together,” explained PR and editorial manager Emma Nabridnyj. “As an agency, we like to shock and surprise, so we wanted to do the same for our staff.”

Denstu Aegis' last party at Koko in Camden.
Denstu Aegis’ last party at Koko in Camden.

Dentsu Aegis gets nostalgic
The Dentsu Aegis network is re-e-winding its agencies to the Roundhouse in North London for a ‘90s-themed rave. Guests, who will be given LED wristbands at the door, will be treated to DJs including U.K. Garage royalty. They’ll also be able to snap selfies with a custom-made Snapchat geofilter around the venue and next to a billboard just outside the venue, which reads “THANK YOU, DAN!” (the Dentsu Aegis Network.)

For the hungry, there’s a range of street food on offer, including pulled pork sliders from Mother Flipper and gourmet hot dogs from Oh My Dog. Oh, and a candy floss machine. Mandy Rayment, head of corporate communications, said it has become a struggle to find a venue big enough to house all DAN’s employees following its various acquisitions.

“We’ve done them like this for the past few years as we’ve been growing considerably,” she said. “It’s a way to bring everyone together to celebrate being part of this network.”

FCB Inferno
The horse-drawn carriages outside FCB Inferno’s bash in 2015.

FCB Inferno’s roller disco
FCB Inferno’s staff have a long tradition of office parties at its London HQ. Last year, the agency took inspiration from the name of its address, Great Queen Street, for a drag queen spectacular filled with regal decadence and a photobooth throne room. (Agencies love drag queens.)

This year, its social committee decided to mark FCB Inferno’s 70th anniversary in the U.K. with a night of disco fun. There will be glitter balls, roller-skating waitresses and karaoke.

“We’ve always believed that Christmas parties are a perfect time for celebration with clients, so we make it a night to remember,” said CEO Frazer Gibney. “The parties are hosted at the office to keep it personal, and the team does an amazing job of transforming our bar and the space.”

Momentum Worldwide’s awards gala
“Between the front and back of the party, you need some kind of segue,” said Mike Kettles, executive creative director. “We didn’t want people standing around having too much to drink with the music blaring.”

So, Momentum Worldwide is celebrating a bumper year (including 18 Cannes Lions) with its own awards show. After votes are made in an online poll, staff members will be surprised with a golden gnome-shaped statue on the night. The 12 categories include “most embarrassing moment in a meeting” and “best double act.” The awards will be presented by a mystery guest.

After a champagne reception, Kettles said guests will be treated to “low-key” food including pizza and garlic bread. “The aim is to tie a loop on the year, but it’s not serious because we’ve done the serious bit,” added Kettles. 

‘Roasties’ in their house colors.

Roast’s Christmas Roast
Roast has taking its name literally in selecting this year’s: A roast dinner. Its Christmas party will close its yearlong competitive gaming tournament, which sees the five groups — Horseradish, Stuffing, Gravy, Mash and Cauliflower Cheese — face off in a series of sports. Mash is the reigning champs. 

Competitive games will be played at the agency’s office in Paddington, and there will also be company awards and a secret Santa gift swap.

The team will wind things down at Austrian restaurant Tiroler Hut over dinner. It’s the venue where the agency’s four founders, affectionately known as Roasties, first cooked up the business two years ago.

Jellyfish’s prize draw
Jellyfish, the agency which hosts its own summer festival, is ditching sit-down meals and awards ceremonies to “party, party, party” this Christmas, according to global brand manager Jo Bond.

At Hixter on London’s Bankside, guests will be presented with a £50 note, which doubles as a raffle ticket for Jellyfish’s prize draw. Up for grabs are weekends away, a case of champagne and £1,000 in cash.

Following food created by chef Mark Hix, there will also be a Jellyfish Casino complete with roulette and blackjack tables and a free bar. “It does come with a health warning though: make no plans for the day after,” Bond added.

Zone’s jingle and mingle

Digital agency Zone is celebrating this Christmas with a “jingle and mingle” event in Clerkenwell with all three of its offices in London, Bristol and Cologne.

The main attraction will be the food and drink, with medicine chests filled with dry ice containing test tube shots of unusual concoctions. There’s also the frozen vodka luge, which is now a tradition for the company’s staff events. Food-wise there will be canapés and a festive buffet for guests. The dress code will be “festive glamour”.

The Social Chain’s 12 days of festivities
Why have one day of Christmas fun when you can have 12? Social media marketing agency Social Chain has lined up 12 days of Christmas for employees at their HQ in Manchester.

On day one, employees were given a gold envelope with a masquerade mask inside — a clue to the agency’s big party. The location of the masquerade ball is still a secret, but on the night, it will be marked with a giant projection of the company’s logo on the outside. Meanwhile, there is also ugly Christmas sweater day, charity bake-offs, secret Santa and a giant Christmas tree, which is up in the office already. Fa la la la la.

“We are all buzzing to get started and crack open the mulled wine and minced pies,” said Kiera Lawlor, head of happiness at Social Chain.


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