Agencies Help Clean up Riot-Hit London

Wieden Exec Totes Bricks; BBH Interns Aid Elderly Barbershop Owner so He Can Afford Repairs

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As ad agencies pitch in to help clean up riot-hit London, Neil Christie, the managing director of Wieden & Kennedy, was spotted toting bricks to keep them out of the clutches of rioters.

Wieden's London Managing Director Neil Christie carries bricks
Wieden's London Managing Director Neil Christie carries bricks

Wieden's London office is located in Hackney, an edgy, artsy but still rough London neighborhood, and it could have spelled trouble when too many bricks were left stacked on the street for a nearby construction project. "So as not to provide handy ammo for possible looters right next to our big glass windows, W+K pitched in to shift the bricks," noted a post on the agency's blog. Below the post was a picture of Mr. Christie, casually dressed in jeans and sneakers, lugging a load of bricks indoors. Said the caption: "Neil struggles with his first real work in a long time. Some members of staff found this display of raw strength surprising, but as he pointed out, 'I've been carrying this place for years.'"

Over at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, a group of interns set up keepaaroncutting.blogspot.com on Wednesday night to help Aaron Biber, an 89-year-old barber whose long-established shop in Tottenham -- another rough London neighborhood -- was vandalized. Along with posting a photo of Mr. Biber in the wrecked shop, BBH interns Bjorn, Sophie and Omid noted that looters even stole his tea kettle. Mr. Biber couldn't afford repairs, but by Thursday afternoon $24,000 in donations had rolled in, along with a TV crew from Russia, offers of help from shampoo makers and hairbrush manufacturers, and advice on making Riot Act insurance claims.

Aaron Biber's vandalized barbershop in Tottenham
Aaron Biber's vandalized barbershop in Tottenham

As the U.K. government pondered trying to cut off Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger to hamper rioters' ability to organize and wreak havoc, Londoners have been using social media to organize clean-up campaigns and spur positive action on the streets to get their city working again. To celebrate their efforts, London digital agency Dare created "This is our London," a website that aggregates images and social media to show how Londoners have come together for good. The site, put together in just eight hours, pulls in relevant tweets by the public using hash tags such as #riotscleanup and #lovelondon, as well as sourcing regularly-updated pictures.

Agencies across London let staff, many of whom live in or near neighborhoods that erupted in violence, go home early on Monday and Tuesday.

A McCann Erickson spokeswoman said, "Many of our staff participated in the local grassroots clean-up efforts that were organized via Twitter [hashtags include #riotcleanup and #Londoncleanup]. Many of our staff individually participated in the local affected neighborhood cleanup efforts and came in late on Tuesday."

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Contributing: Rupal Parekh

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