A last resort for employment.
- High-profile clients like Target, Audi, Xbox, and Anheuser-Busch.
- Monday bagels.
- A new office coming in 2013 that looks to be more pleasant than the current one, and is located in the middle of SoMa, thus walkable from both Caltrain and BART.
- Supposedly, the AKQA name looks good on a marketing resume (say the other reviewers), though I haven't noticed this in my own response rates.
- Most people here are nice.
- The pay is way below average; compared to other agencies you'll see five-figure gaps across the board. Benefits are no better.
- Their philosophy on work ethic is shallow, inconsiderate, and unfair. Efficiency and quality of work take a back seat to the only metric that counts: face time. All employees classified as "creatives" are expected to be in the office from 9:00-6:00 at the minimum -- which for some who take public transit means 8:30-6:30 -- and then there are the late nights/weekends, which are frequent. There's also a prevalent mentality that if some people have to stay late, everyone should, even if there's no real work to be done. Should you get a salary offer, make sure to discount it by 30% to reflect these asinine attitudes.
- Meetings, meetings, and more meetings -- and on some projects, tack on a couple meetings after that. On ours, meetings are masterfully engineered to be as dumb and intrusive as possible: gathering in a circle every morning as a "team" while the PM goes around the room telling each person, one by one, about their assignment for the day. For all involved, the result is 30 seconds of talking followed by 15 minutes – more... of standing idle -- a hilarious daily waste of three man-hours. Even funnier is how at one point, the powers above noticed this trend and held a meeting about the ludicrous oversupply of meetings; no change took place except for a mandate moving them earlier in the morning.
- Not technically a con, but AKQA has a pretty homogenous workforce, especially for SF. Aside from a handful of Asians there are almost zero minorities, and few past the age of 35 (maybe because some parents prefer to actually see their children). There's also a heavy supply of what seem like former sorority girls. Aside from the technical types and analytics team, smart/interesting people are a rare sight.
- The concept of creativity is thwarted at every turn. The "committee" philosophy dominates here: turn in a piece of work and watch it get bounced between 3-5 people (seemingly chosen at random) for "corrections," most of which make things worse. Sometimes it gets passed to an outside agency for yet more changes, which are expected to be obeyed blindly. Should you ever try to argue, expect to be branded as difficult and Not a Team Player. These factors make AKQA feel more like a production house (or assembly line) than a place of any creativity.
- While most people are nice -- a quality that's more attributable to San Francisco than anything else -- that adjective applies far less to the middle managers, aka the ones the most people call "boss." The first problem is oversupply: AKQA is one of those bloated bureaucracies that seems to have more captains than rowers. There are FOUR levels of "Creative Director" alone, then the real management, and finally the corporate overlords (AKQA sold itself to the WPP conglomerate in 2012). These directors don't seem at all qualified to do their jobs, nor very bright in general. I've met CDs who couldn't understand subject-verb agreement, wrote copy containing nonsensical statements, had trouble articulating themselves in e-mails, or just had the literacy of your average YouTube commenter. Between them and the project managers, the whole lot of them seem painfully lacking in common sense.
- The ones at the top of this chain (who never leave) are as low on ethics as they are on talent, treating the rank-and-file as disposables. I've witnessed scenarios in which employee A recruited employee B, then when the latter turned out to be cheaper, the management just flat-out fired employee A (while making up stories about said employee's performance as justification). These people also turn a blind eye to the bullying that sometimes goes on below them as long as the offender is in their social club. Not nice + not smart + not ethical + unlimited power equals a lethal combination to those below.
- Given all of the above, it's no surprise that annual turnover is higher than at any company I've seen by a matter of multiples -- literally within a few points of 50%. (Imagine what it would be in a normal economy!) By my three-month anniversary, three of the four people sitting next to me had quit; by nine months I was one of the older people in the room. While funny, this sky-high turnover becomes problematic by leaving giant holes in the workflow -- and the so-called solution from the middle managers is to have people with totally unrelated jobs fill in the gaps, i.e. an account guy doing the review work of a creative (for free, of course). You'll often find yourself arguing with people who are long on authority and short on knowledge, and it creates quite a dysfunctional atmosphere. It's no surprise that the best and brightest leave AKQA often, and soon. – less