The Convention: Agencies, marketers in NYC work around Republican invasion

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Only an event the size of the Republican National Convention could make Atlantic City, N.J., seem like a suitable place for New Yorkers to go to get some work done.

But that's exactly how staffers from Brand Buzz, a unit of WPP Group's Young & Rubicam Brands, are looking at it. They've decided to trade the protests, gridlock and general frenzy of the convention for the bling, noise and general frenzy of America's Favorite Playground and the Trump Plaza Hotel. In a two-day retreat, employees will be reminded of their mission and process, talk about their clients' business challenges and, in a flourish worthy of reality TV, compete to see who can land a meeting with one of the city's casinos.

"The timing of this was driven by the RNC, but it's not all about escaping the distractions," said Mike Reese, general manager at Brand Buzz. "We've got a lot of new blood here and we want to use this as an opportunity to come together."

While it's being taken for granted that the influx of delegates, reporters, and protesters will make a mess of midtown, few others in the New York marketing world are going to these lengths.

up to employees

A vast majority of agencies, marketers and media types polled about their convention procedures said they're leaving the decision of whether to come to work or take vacation time up to their employees-a policy made less complicated by the fact that the convention coincides with an always-popular vacation week. A common refrain among agency executives, including some just blocks away from Madison Square Garden convention site, is "We're open for business-as usual."

"I know that some places are advising people to go on vacation," said Anthony Bianco, managing director and partner at WPP's Berlin Cameron/Red Cell. "We are doing the opposite. This is not at all a lax time for us."

A few agencies are taking some extra pains, if only for convenience's sake.

The 750 or so employees at the New York office of Interpublic Group of Cos' Foote Cone & Belding have been actively encouraged to take time off or work from home this week. As a result, only about a quarter of the staff is expected to come into the W. 33rd St. office, according to FCB Exec VP Bill Haney. About a quarter are expected to take vacation, while about half are expected to be working from home, many using software, distributed especially because of the convention, that will allow for remote access to files saved on hard drives. Some are working at clients' headquarters.

staying flexible

L'Oreal USA will be open next week but be flexible about arrival and departure times and "sensitive to any of the challenges people may experience getting into and out of the city," a spokeswoman said. Many employees have decided on their own to take vacation or "take advantage of business travel during that time," she added.

Likewise, WPP's Y&R Advertising, Interpublic's Deutsch and Havas' Media Planning Group have set up hot lines that employees can call in the event of a terrorist act or some disaster. And, although open for business, Grey Global Group's leadership has encouraged the use of video-conferencing services.

Staffers at Publicis Groupe's Publicis, New York, also located near the Garden, have been urged to follow the safety and security instructions given by New York City police, and Publicis representatives have met with the 34th Street Partnership.

At the offices of ESPN the Magazine, which is located a few blocks east of Madison Square Garden, employees have been given clearance to work from home should it meet with the blessings of higher-ups, according to a spokeswoman.

contributing: jon fine, jack neff

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