Girls School? Maybe. Reform School? Definitely.

Ad agency digs have long been creative, but creative within certain well heeled parameters. Lots of modern lines and Eames inspired furnishings. It’s a refined creativity, not circus creativity. But there’s an agency in Seattle that refuses to play by those rules, or any rules regarding the business and matters of taste.
Wexley School for Girls announces it presence in a dramatic way. Creative spaces in advertising are often hidden away in warehouse districts and up narrow elevator shafts. Not Wexley. Wexley is connected to the street in the most real sense. It appears to be one part Urban Outfitters, another part Elvis Museum. Whatever, the proper mix, it’s clearly a retail-looking establishment that begs to be noticed, gawked at and misunderstood.
Just over a year ago, a writer at the agency described Wexley’s physical presence like this:

Indeed, that’s a 9-foot-tall chainsaw-art grizzly bear. Yes, those are workable desks as part of a 9-hole putt-putt golf course. Of course every desk in the sweatshop comes with a sewing machine. Uh huh, we did turn that baby grand piano into a conference table. Don’t be dumb, it still plays. We knocked down an exterior wall and put in a garage door, that’s how the camper trailer got in there. There are 78 rubber chickens in the Chinese restaurant. Other than that, all questions can be answered with “What did you think, this is Wexley, not (insert whatever other company you want here). Duh.”

If advertising is about creating a sense of wonder around brands, the Wexley crew are master craftsmen. One can only guess how much wonder they’re spawning in the minds of the people (like Jon Fine of BusinessWeek) who happen by to walk or drive by their 5th Ave home.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.