Ad Age's Best Places to Work 2015

The 50 Companies On Our List Stand Out -- and Give Our Entire Industry Something To Aspire To

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Happiness does not equal perks. That was one of the key takeaways from a recent panel that included executives from some of Ad Age's 2014 Best Places to Work. Happy employees are empowered and have a sense of purpose—they come to work every day and feel good about the people they're working with and working for. And that held true in this year's edition as well. Yes, the employees we surveyed are fans of on-site yoga and free snacks, but the really glowing reviews came from employees who adore their bosses, understand their company's vision and feel valued. It's at once the most simple—and most complicated—formula to get right.

When we set out to identify the best places to work in advertising, ad-tech and media, we looked at compensation, benefits packages and hiring practices, as well as work-life balance. Special perks, diversity and career development opportunities were also considered. The 50 companies on our list stand out—and give our entire industry something to aspire to.
METHODOLOGY
New York-based Buck Consultants, which has nearly a century of experience in human-resources consulting, crafted two surveys with Ad Age's input. The employee survey accounted for 60% of a company's score, while the employer survey accounted for 40% of the score. More than 21,000 people were surveyed. Any agency, ad-tech or media company with more than 40 full-time employees in the U.S. was eligible.
CREAM OF THE CROP
We poured over surveys from more than 21,000 people to determine which of our honorees ranked in the top 10% of all participants in areas like benefits, work environment and more. Thirty-seven of the top 50 made the cut.
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COAST TO COAST
Great cultures can take root anywhere. This year's 50 honorees hail from around the country, calling cities both big and small home.
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Opener Illustration by Francesco Zorzi
Interactive Design by Chen Wu
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Headquarters: San Francisco
Employees: 49
When Sarah (not her real name) was ready to relinquish her fast-paced agency life at San Francisco-based Metric Theory for an in-house gig at a tech company, she went to her boss, one of the four Metric Theory founders, and asked if he'd help her land a new job. He agreed, and offered to write glowing recommendations. Ultimately, she got a job at a hot Silicon Valley digital company.

In San Francisco and adjacent Silicon Valley, employee perks are cool, but they're also a given. So the fact that Metric Theory's management team will help its staffers find other jobs is, ironically, one of the many cultural perks that make people want to stay. For the record, Metric Theory also offers gym membership stipends, health coverage and competitive salaries.

"Going the agency route builds your skill set rapidly, and that opens up other doors in the marketplace," said Metric Theory Co-founder and CEO Ken Baker. "We looked to build transparent relationships where our employees feel comfortable being honest so they can get what they want out of the company." The philosophy inspired a formal "goal cycle" process in which the founders commit verbally to spending time focused on each employee's role and ultimate goal. "If it's two years, then we'll have an open conversation about that, and what are you looking for next in your career, if it's something Metric Theory can offer. If it's not, how do we transition you out of your job and [help you with that] final career."

And for the bulk who choose to stay, it doesn't hurt that the firm, which specializes in search engine marketing, has enough business to keep its people worry free. Three years old, the shop already has nearly 50 employees, 200 clients and two offices, in San Francisco and Denver.

With that kind of growth, there's nothing the founders want to hide from their staffers. "I'd say, we're giant oversharers," Mr. Baker said, regarding the "overall business data." The firm runs quarterly two-hour meetings, sharing a mountain of data, including profit margins, cash flow, churn, hiring plans and the logic behind those numbers and plans. "It teaches employees about running a business," said Mr. Baker.

He and the other founders have set a precedent for honesty and transparency since leaving Meltwater, the marketing technology company where they ran an internal agency group. The four founders had complementary skill sets. Among them was a conservative client guy with a "self-deprecating, amazing humor"; a VC and operations guy with a Stanford MBA; and an SEM vet and expert who wears either a superhero or cartoon T-shirt and loves pizza, said Mr. Baker. They all have one thing in common: They like to have fun.

Mr. Baker's side hobby is woodworking, so he spent 200 hours building a 16-foot bar for the group's newest San Francisco office. The team drinks together there every week.

Every year for Halloween, employees are paired with someone for whom they have to choose a costume. Mr. Baker's person dressed him up as a bumblebee, and wore a beekeeper outfit.

Another fun event indicative of the culture was Mr. Baker's birthday. The office ordered 40 orange beards to match his and surprised him during a meeting.

In addition to Mr. Baker's bar contribution, the company divided employees into teams to help design the conference rooms at the San Francisco headquarters. The result is a "green room" with a living wall and nature theme; a jersey room containing Metric Theory's team photos and athletic jerseys from sporting events; a Texas library for casual meetings; a Zen nap or meditation room; and a barrel room highlighting the historical significance of the neighborhood during the Prohibition era.
By Alexandra Bruell
Photo Credit: Gabriela Hasbun for Ad Age
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Headquarters: Fort Worth, Texas
Employees: 105
Amnet may be made up of serious math and data brains, but that seriousness doesn't crowd out culture.

Each office within the digital media buying group owned by Dentsu Aegis has its own subculture. In Fort Worth, for example, the open-air office is dog friendly with a game room and a welcoming patio. The Chicago office sits on Michigan Avenue and overlooks the Chicago River.

Those offices may get tight if the group's growth plans pan out. Today, in the U.S., Amnet touts 105 staffers and plans to be at 130 by the end of year and at 180 sometime in 2016.

Still, Amnet considers itself a "startup within a more established business."

To encourage collaboration, and what the company calls "career-defining moments," it hosts an all-company summit once a year where every employee gathers for three days of training, development and team building. "We are constantly knowledge-sharing via email, POV and case studies and strive to learn and grow from each other's expertise," the company said in its submission.

Justine Watkins, managing director at Amnet U.S. in New York, said that talent is a core focus. She mentioned one employee who joined the company out of school in a communications function. A few years later, the employee asked if she could learn about the nuts and bolts of programmatic. She later took on a client-facing role and, 18 months into it, wanted to use her communications skills to help grow the business. The company gave her a position focused on driving programmatic thought leadership.

"The people are amazing to work with and we go the extra mile for each other," said one staffer. "The three best things about working for Amnet are the people that I work with, the satisfying work and the sense of knowing I have a future with the company," added another.
By Alexandra Bruell
Photo Credit: Courtesy Amnet Group
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Headquarters: Jackson, Miss.
Employees: 45
Mississippi isn't exactly on the list of major advertising hubs. Recruiting employees in the agency world away from larger cities like New York, Los Angeles or even Portland, Ore., can be a challenge. Mississippi's capital, after all, is hardly considered a hotbed of culture.

There is a small ad community, but make no mistake, it is tiny. Though that actually works to the advantage of the Ramey Agency, an independent shop of 45 people with offices in Jackson, Miss., and Memphis, Tenn., which places a huge emphasis on making it a place where employees want to stay put.

"That's why this emphasis on culture is so important," said Chris Ray, CEO and partner at Ramey. "For the person we recruit from Portland or New York, it's not as though they can move their families and find out six months later it's not working and it's not a cultural fit."

Indeed, choices in the area are limited enough that people can't just jump across town. There are a couple of other agencies in the area with more than 30 people, said Mr. Ray, plus a handful of firms with 10 to 20 people. There's a smattering of shops with fewer than 10 people. "We need to make sure we're offering people enough stickiness to want to stay," he said.

To sweeten the deal, the agency offers what it calls Ramey Life enrichment classes, monthly outside-the-office events that include yoga sessions, still-life drawing classes, wine tastings and paddleboard lessons. Other perks include weekly in-office masseuse appointments. Plus, employees get 40 hours of personal time off per year to dedicate to community service.

The agency also touts its flat organizational structure, eschewing most hierarchy, which the agency says encourages team members to be more collaborative with anyone in any department. Throughout a project's life cycle, employees from every department are present, which Mr. Ray said allows for the best ideas to flourish.
By Maureen Morrison
Photo Credit: Courtesy The Ramey Agency
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Headquarters: New York
Employees: 41
People say they love the office dogs, working with the CEO, the growth potential and, of course, Fitcoin, a program encouraging employees to spend up to $1,500 per year on health and wellness expenses, including gym memberships and foreign-language courses. One employee said the company punches above its weight and everyone is "weird in the best possible way."
Photo Credit: Courtesy Figliulo & Partners
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Headquarters: Los Angeles
Employees: 90
Employees of M&C Saatchi LA, part of M&C Saatchi Worldwide, describe their office as open, collaborative, clean, safe, bright and creative. What they like best about the company is the family atmosphere. "Everyone has a voice here and is encouraged to use it or speak up," one employee said. "There are opportunities for you to grow and curate your growth path and plan, and senior management supports this."
Photo Credit: Courtesy M&C Saatchi LA
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Headquarters: New York
Employees: 275 Employees in the U.S. (and over 3,000 digital services employees globally)
At PwC's Digital Services Experience Center, employees list "people I work with" as one of the best parts of working for the company. Perks aren't bad either: A Friday beer cart, Tuesday bagels, 10 annual paid holidays and tuition reimbursement are just a few ways the digital services firm keeps employees focused and happy.
Photo Credit: Courtesy PwC Digital Services Experience Center
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Headquarters: San Francisco
Employees: 85
At Argonaut, each employee (regardless of role) presents 10 ideas per project to the chief creative officers as a fun yet very productive exercise. Employees value the agency's environment of collaboration and openness, with one saying, "We all work our arses off because we're made to feel integral to the success of the company and that each and every one of us matters."
Photo Credit: Courtesy Argonaut
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Headquarters: Los Angeles
Employees: 595
Now edging close to 600 employees, 72andSunny still maintains the relaxed, optimistic vibe that might be expected at a smaller shop. One employee said it "feels like a collective of artists rather than an ad agency" and others lauded the campus, free beer and collaborative environment.
Photo Credit: Courtesy 72andSunny
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Headquarters: New York
Employees: 65
A no-questions-asked unlimited leave policy is one of the freedoms inVNT offers employees so they can realize their dreams, the company said. It also ponies up for courses, lectures and conferences. Staffers spoke highly of the company's benefits, as well as the energetic, creative work environment.
Photo Credit: Courtesy inVNT
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Headquarters: Boston
Employees: 2,017
DigitasLBi said its goal is to remove barriers to creativity, collaboration and innovation, so the agency offers the very best in snacks, creates quiet spaces for meditation and offers a whole host of other amenities aimed at keeping staffers content. Employees praised the culture, which one described as "stress-free" and another said is "free-flowing, youthful and exciting."
Photo Credit: Courtesy DigitasLBi
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Headquarters: Dallas
Employees: 90
Every spring, full-service agency TM Advertising has a company-wide party—complete with Jell-O shots and games of flip cup and Cards Against Humanity—at the CEO's house. At the office, a masseuse visits monthly, and there are free snacks and drinks. Employees say it "feels like family" and "everyone works hard with a smile."
Photo Credit: Courtesy TM Advertising
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Headquarters: New York
Employees: 73
Staffers at ad-tech company Fluent say transparent management and great company events, such as happy hours and field days, are among the best parts of working there. The company itself values a creative, entrepreneurial environment—so much so that it gives out a quarterly award to employees who embody that attitude most.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Fluent
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13PMG
Headquarters: Fort Worth, Texas
Employees: 77
PMG's perks sound like ones you'd find at summer camp: fresh fruit, healthy snacks, monthly bonding events, bimonthly movie days, tennis tournaments and annual field days. There are the grown-up perks too: maternity and paternity leave, as well as diaper gift cards for new parents. When asked what they would improve about the company, several employees said, "I can't think of anything" and "keep growing!"
Photo Credit: Courtesy PMG
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Headquarters: New York
Employees: 149
A few CPXi employees said the company maintains a startup feel despite being well-established. For example, one employee said company culture is so relaxed that many employees wear T-shirts to work and "literally whistle while we work." Others said the company has remained tight-knit through rapid growth in the past few years. Perks can't be forgotten; beverage options alone span from cold brew coffee to beer on tap.
Photo Credit: Courtesy CPXi
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Headquarters: Akron, Ohio
Employees: 86
Founded in 1940, Hitchcock Fleming & Associates recruits for "bright souls with a shared passion for insight and creativity." Said one employee: "My boss is smart, inclusive and supportive. The company is well managed—you know what's going on."
Photo Credit: Courtesy Hitchcock Fleming & Associates
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16RPA
Headquarters: Santa Monica, Calif.
Employees: 594
RPA fosters employee bonding with sports teams, charity events and ride-share incentives. Conveniently located in RPA's building are a daycare, dry cleaning, a car wash, a swimming pool, basketball and tennis courts, a food court and a notary. One employee said the best parts of working there are the people, their respect for each other and their love of advertising.
Photo Credit: Courtesy RPA
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Headquarters: Boston
Employees: 1,773 Employees in North America; 7,339 globally
Employees said the open culture was one of the best parts of working there, along with the opportunity for growth and flat organization of the company. To that end, SapientNitro is building training programs to ensure experienced female employees have opportunities at the executive level.
Photo Credit: Courtesy SapientNitro
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Headquarters: New York
Employees: 500 Employees (with part time and freelancers, the number is closer to 600)
Droga5, with offices in New York and London, said the general sentiment among employees is that "we can accomplish anything." Indeed, they said "everyone is smart," and they value the "exposure to brilliant people that you can learn from."
Photo Credit: Courtey Droga5/Jesse Vega
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Headquarters: Rochester, N.Y.
Employees: 96
Employees at Butler/Till appreciate flexible hours, a fun culture, transparent management and having a stake in the company. "I love the way everyone takes ownership of not only their own job but the overall success of the company," said one staffer.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Butler/Till
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Headquarters: Parsippany, N.J.
Employees: 184
Coyne PR reported it rewards creativity and is careful not to forget the power of a simple thank-you. Clearly, employees recognize the company's efforts, with many saying leadership, great benefits and quality clients are the best parts of working there.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Coyne PR
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Headquarters: Minneapolis
Employees: 219
Carmichael Lynch has two company rental cars available for weekend trips, as well as a fleet of bikes and a health and wellness group that offers classes and weekly yoga on the roof, where concerts are also held. One employee said, "There's nothing like coming to work with passionate, intelligent co-workers."
Photo Credit: Courtesy Carmichael Lynch
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Headquarters: Victor, N.Y.
Employees: 92
Dixon Schwabl offers many perks, but staffers' favorite parts of working at the company were less tangible than free coffee and table tennis. Employees commented on the supportive culture, engaged co-workers, community respect and company leadership. "My team's leader is nothing short of incredible and I look up to her as a role model," said a staffer.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Dixon Schwabl
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Headquarters: El Segundo, Calif.
Employees: 184
When Wpromote was on Ad Age's Best Places to Work list last year, the agency had 101 employees. These days, the growing company still prides itself on nontraditional perks (such as daily subsidized lunches, an on-site masseuse, Fine Wine Fridays and yoga classes) which employees appreciate. "The energy and atmosphere of the office is incredibly upbeat, and promotes a hard work ethic," one staffer said.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Wpromote
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Headquarters: Philadelphia
Employees: 244
Publicis Health Media describes its employees as "a work-hard, play-hard group of individuals." The company fosters a fun culture with annual events such as Thanksgiving Lunch and the Ugly Sweater Bar Crawl. "Just look at our #PHMLove on Instagram. We love coming to work!" said one staffer.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Publicis Health Media
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Headquarters: Playa Vista, Calif.
Employees: 721
Employees at ad-tech company Rubicon Project enjoy free vending machines and a free fully stocked kitchen, but what they like best about the company are the people, benefits, unlimited vacation and challenging work.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Rubicon Project
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Headquarters: Minneapolis
Employees: 240
Full-service agency Colle & McVoy has an open workspace—for everyone from the CEO to interns. Employees said they liked the opportunities for growth, the "collaborative, driven and creative culture," the dogs that wander the halls, the people and TapServer, a machine the agency built that grants employees beer for updating timesheets.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Colle & McVoy
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Headquarters: Los Angeles
Employees: 450
Team One offers weekly massages, yoga classes and meditation sessions to employees, along with a promotional speaker series and opportunities to volunteer on company time. Clients, which include Häagen-Dazs and Lexus, offer "lots of opportunity to bring fresh and innovative ideas to life," one employee said.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Team One/Skyler Greene
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Headquarters: New York
Employees: 1,000
What's so great about Horizon? The answer was, over and over again, the people. Employees love their teams, along with unlimited sick days and perks like bagels on Fridays, free gym access, beer and even a meditation class.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Horizon Media
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Headquarters: Edgewater, N.J.
Employees: 46
There's no reason to settle for an office full of cubicles when you can reside in a 100-year-old schoolhouse and wear slippers while you work. DX staffers feel like they belong to a family: "We are made to feel like our opinions matter and our lives are important—both inside and out of the office."
Photo Credit: Courtesy DX Agency
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Headquarters: Philadelphia
Employees: 130
Tierney's employees were clear: This is an agency that strives to promote work-life balance. "I have never worked for a company that so truly respects 9-to-5:30 hours. It's amazing," one of them wrote. Of note is also the agency's female leadership: The C-suite is all women.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Tierney
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Headquarters: Minneapolis
Employees: 48
Haberman boasts a Fun Committee that organizes office yoga sessions, champagne breakfasts and Oscar parties. But what stands out is the agency's garden, dubbed the Dude Ranch, located 30 miles away from HQ, where employees plant and harvest fruits and vegetables. "It is pretty priceless," wrote one staffer.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Haberman
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Headquarters: Pasadena, Calif.
Employees: 440
Open X's open culture is deeply valued by its staff. Perks include free coffee, snacks and lunch three times a week, a game room in every office and flexible paid time off. "These features remind me of living with family," one employee wrote.
Photo Credit: Courtesy OpenX
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Headquarters: Seattle
Employees: 1,300
Possible's casual atmosphere gets kudos from employees. "I love wearing jeans and flip-flops to work and feeling like I can laugh and totally be myself in most circumstances," one staffer wrote. The company also offers sabbaticals on anniversaries and some U.S. offices are dog-friendly, with their own #DogsofPOSSIBLE hashtag.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Possible
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Headquarters: New York
Employees: 85
The social marketing shop has a startup feel to it, complete with office lofts, snacks, scooters and Nerf guns. But unlike many new companies, work-life balance is valued. "Of course, we often have to work hard, but it's also strongly encouraged that we disconnect and recharge when we can," one staffer said.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Kinetic Social
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Headquarters: Palo Alto, Calif.
Employees: 91
Employees of this Bay Area mobile marketing firm raved about its perks—catered meals, free laundry and gym, 401(k) matching—and a strong work culture. "Everyone gets along really well on a professional and personal level," one staffer wrote.
Photo Credit: Courtesy AppLovin
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Headquarters: San Diego
Employees: 37
Openness is a key concept for BusinessOnline. From an open office with no cubicles to transparent management, the company communicates goals and changes of strategy clearly to the team. Also, nobody goes thirsty: There is a full bar, and beer and wine fridges.
Photo Credit: Courtesy BusinessOnline
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Headquarters: New York
Employees: 234
Smart co-workers, a booming business and the opportunity to grow were all key to employee satisfaction. Tuition reimbursement and paid time off for volunteering are also valued perks.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Integral Ad Science
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Headquarters: Memphis, Tenn.
Employees: 185
This shop is so loved by its employees that more than 20% have been there for at least 10 years, 11% are returning employees and 23% are staff referrals. Among the favorite perks, pet insurance, half-day Fridays before holidays, a beer cart, free massages and yoga classes.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Archer Malmo
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Headquarters: New York
Employees: 969
Deutsch takes other agencies' unlimited caffeine policy up a notch: It has a full-time barista on site. The company also provides free lunch, unlimited snacks and weekly happy hours. Dogs are welcome. "They keep the mood light even when the day could be stressful," one staffer wrote.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Deutsch Inc.
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Headquarters: New York
Employees: 800
It's not always the case that the boss is the best part of the job, but at 360i, employees repeatedly praised CEO Sarah Hofstetter, saying she knows everyone by name, even new hires. One perk of note is that new moms get 12 weeks of paid parental leave, based on tenure.
Photo Credit: Courtesy 360i
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Headquarters: New York
Employees: 178
This video advertising startup created an amicable and authentic environment that employees value. "I come to work as 'everyday self' and don't need to change that when I walk in the door," one of them wrote. "New hires are immediately welcomed with open arms and everyone here is super friendly."
Photo Credit: Courtesy Innovid
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Headquarters: New York
Employees: 48
This small Manhattan digital shop makes a point of giving employees time to decompress, by providing one week of paid time off during both winter holidays and the Fourth of July. The team also enjoys the weekly self-organized happy hour called Hamster Time.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Alexander Interactive
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Headquarters: Chicago
Employees: 183
A supportive culture is one of Rise Interactive's selling points. Employees describe the environment as energizing and motivating. "My teammates are amazing. They've got my back and I've got theirs," one staffer wrote.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Rise Interactive
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Headquarters: New York
Employees: 140
There's no getting attached to your desk at Mother—the office shifts layout every three months so co-workers can connect with a different set of staffers. The agency also takes pride in its international team: 12 countries are represented among the employees.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Mother New York
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Headquarters: New York
Employees: 1,500 Employees in U.S.; 3,500 globally
It's hard to keep an open environment in a global firm, but Weber Shandwick's employees say that the PR firm manages to do that. Staffers also like to feel that they belong to a wider network, which the company encourages with an international employee-exchange program.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Weber Shandwick
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Headquarters: Jacksonville, Fla.
Employees: 96
Flexible hours, anniversary gifts and peer-nominated awards are some of the perks of this shop. Staffers also praise opportunities to grow and the agency's fun atmosphere.
Photo Credit: Courtesy St. John & Partners
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47MEC
Headquarters: New York
Employees: 550
The agency offers a competitive benefits package while having its own personal well-being programs, like meditation challenges and inspirational workshops. Staffers say they feel at home: "There can be a family component working here. People are genuinely interested and involved in your life."
Photo Credit: Courtesy Mediaedge CIA (MEC GLOBAL)
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Headquarters: New York
Employees: 247
Staffers describe the health-care-focused shop as a "young, fun working environment." Good work-life balance, solid benefits and ego-free atmosphere were also mentioned as selling points.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness
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Headquarters: Atlanta
Employees: 325
An informal setting and continuing education help 22squared stand out. Employees also remarked on the energetic culture and opportunities for innovation. They applauded the free food as well.
Photo Credit: Courtesy 22Squared
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Headquarters: Philadelphia
Employees: 102
Do you like to run? This marketing agency based in Pennsylvania and California will pay for four marathons or Tough Mudders a year. The shop also hosts private music sessions and happy hours with mixologists. As one staffer put it, "[There is a] work-hard, play-hard mentality—hard work is always generously rewarded."
Photo Credit: Courtesy Red Tettemer O'Connell & Partners
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