WPP's MediaCom Transforms Happy Hour Into Healthy Hour

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MediaCom has found success with its Find Your Fit program.
MediaCom has found success with its Find Your Fit program. Credit: MediaCom

When MediaCom invited me to socialize on a blazing-hot August day, I was sweaty and red-faced after 60 minutes, but not because we were on a rooftop bar. And while drinks were involved, they were of the smoothie variety rather than summer ales and martinis. The WPP agency is trying to turn the traditional happy hour outing into a healthier occasion for staff with its new Find Your Fit program.

The idea for Find Your Fit came from Josh Brooks, MediaCom's global associate director of strategy, who moved from London to New York about 11 months ago and was looking for a way to stay in shape and meet colleagues.

"I'm a big sports and fitness fanatic, and working in this industry, it can be quite tricky to find time, and sitting at a desk isn't the healthiest thing, so this is a way to get healthier, have fun and meet people who you don't see on the day-to-day basis," said Mr. Brooks.

MediaCom works with Men's Health and Women's Health regularly for clients, so when the idea was brought up to the publications, they loved it and wanted to get involved for free. "This is about us wanting to benefit partners who benefit us every single day," said Laura Frerer-Schmidt, VP-publisher of Women's Health. The magazines have signed on for a 12-class, one-year partnership to host the fitness classes at MediaCom's New York office.

The Rodale media outlets suggested fitness power couple Christina Jensen and Andy Speer, who was named Men's Health's Next Top Trainer in 2014, to lead the classes. For the first event, in July, 25 staffers across a variety of WPP agencies participated; 30 joined for the August class I attended.

Men's Health Publisher Ronan Gardiner said the brand has been teaming up with clients for workout classes for several years, but they've all been held at off-site locations, like studios or gyms. "We have never brought one of those workouts into an agency before," he said. "It's an opportunity to bring our brands to life in front of our clients in their offices and all have fun together doing it."

Mr. Gardiner isn't lying—the class was a lot fun. But don't confuse fun for easy. The exercises that Ms. Jensen and Mr. Speer ran through, which were all partner-based, ranged from planks and lunges to squats and sprints. We switched partners for each move in order to meet new people in the room. Mr. Gardiner and I even teamed up once for a plank-superman-hand-slap combo, which sounds more complicated than it is, but will definitely make you sweat.

Betsy Bender, communications planner for MediaCom, who's attended both classes, said she signed up because she and some colleagues "wanted to socialize and get in a good workout, and it's convenient that it's here in the office."

One of Ms. Bender's favorite parts of Find Your Fit is meeting new people within WPP and GroupM, the media agency network in which MediaCom sits. She added that she likes seeing how Ms. Jensen and Mr. Speer adapt to the office for the workouts and incorporate the space into the moves. During class No. 2, for example, the trainers had us form two lines so we could compete against the person next to us in shuffles and sprints by touching the back of the first tile line in front of us and heading back to start, followed by the second and third tiles.

After the cool-down, everyone headed to the kitchen counter for smoothies, provided by Men's and Women's Health.

Find Your Fit isn't MediaCom's only wellness initiative. The shop touts "Wellness Wednesdays," which involves an internal email with simple health and wellness tips, such as exercises that can be done at a desk. To make it a collaborative effort, the notices feature experiences or demonstrations from employees themselves. A number of MediaCom team members have also started setting up group workout meetings. Recently, the agency's Subway and Revlon teams held an evening yoga event. Due to its popularity, the next session will be open to all staffers. MediaCom even has branded mats ready for those who don't have one or forget to bring theirs.

Ideally, Mr. Brooks said he hopes to get as many GroupM and WPP agencies involved in Find Your Fit as possible, and he wants to encourage the other shops to host it at their offices too.

As for Men's and Women's Health, Ms. Frerer-Schmidt said the publications are looking at ways to evolve the partnership with MediaCom to continue enhancing people's lives.

"What's better than making yourself a little healthier and getting a little more social and having some fun? There's nothing better than that," she said.

Except maybe, occasionally, a rooftop bar.

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