AKQA Reviews in London, England | Glassdoor

AKQA London Reviews

Updated May 4, 2017
11 reviews

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London, England (UK)

1.0
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AKQA CEO Ajaz Ahmed
Ajaz Ahmed
7 Ratings

11 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • great people, brands and leadership (in 38 reviews)

  • Great clients, some of the best quality developers in the biz (in 35 reviews)

Cons
  • I assume that at times work / life balance will not be ideal, but that is true for every agency in London (in 36 reviews)

  • Work culture of working very very long hours (in 46 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. Helpful (3)

    "Toxic"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in London, England (UK)
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in London, England (UK)
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at AKQA full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    WPP benefits
    Some good accounts to work on
    Great location

    Cons

    When I was offered a role there, I was over the moon in joining what I thought would be a dream job, with an inspirational leader.

    How wrong was I. The truth could not be further from this.

    The agency runs a culture of cut-throat bullying, which in reality comes from the top, down to every single layer of management. It is all down to who you are friends with, rather than how talented you are. Everyone is watching their backs.

    In all honesty, I could not wait to meet the CEO who you'd hear lots about.

    When I finally had the chance, in a meeting with colleagues, I couldn't believe the disrespect and demeaning attitude towards them. He ripped their work apart and told the presenter to stop talking because he couldn't stand his voice. Needless to say, it destroyed everyone there, morally and mentally.

    They took the energy out of the room, it was said.
    True leaders create new ones, not destroy them.

    Many people have been leaving and the agency is all but a shell of its former self. Floors are now virtually empty and the majority of the remaining talent are looking to leave, just ask head hunters around London to get it first hand.

    Success in my team was judged on how much money I saved on timesheets and not on the quality of the work the team delivered.

    Don't be misled by hypocritical articles talking about culture and looking after people. Once you're in it is clear: It is profits before people.

    Avoid. I'd not recommend this place to anyone I know and care about.

    Advice to Management

    Advice to WPP management because I feel the one running the agency is compromised.
    It is a small industry and reputation is everything, people talk and can see beyond the shiny articles, please act fast to save what was left of a once great agency. There are still a few talented people there, but they are all looking for work. Look at the practices put in place to hide endemic bullying and even even sexism.

    A shock that an agency in this day and age still operates like this in a city like London.


  2. Helpful (7)

    "Dog eat dog"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in London, England (UK)
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in London, England (UK)
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at AKQA full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Great reputation in the industry.

    Cons

    It's a fear driven culture that starts at the top with everyone being afraid of the ceo.


  3. Helpful (12)

    "Nightmare"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in London, England (UK)
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in London, England (UK)
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at AKQA full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    The name looks good on your resume. But for how much longer?

    Cons

    A bullying culture... led by the very top.
    Passive aggressive behaviour is the norm.
    Certain leaders verging on Psychosis.
    If your a woman, you stand no chance.
    Nothing is ever good enough.
    If you want to design emails, banners, and never produce anything worthwhile, this is the company for you.
    A complete shadow of the company it once was.
    Top circle look after themselves and their 'favourites'. Everyone else is just a number.

    Advice to Management

    Learn some social skills.

    AKQA Response

    Jun 17, 2016

    Thanks for sharing your view. It’s disappointing to read. AKQA London has been my responsibility for the last year, and I feel we’ve built an incredible team and culture. I have a very open ... More


  4. Is this helpful? The community relies on everyone sharing – Add Anonymous Review


  5. "Hierarchical and meetings galore!"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Freelancer - Senior Project Manager in London, England (UK)
    Former Freelancer - Senior Project Manager in London, England (UK)
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at AKQA (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Central location. Nice coffee machines. Casual dress. Interesting clients.

    Cons

    Spent 6 months here as a freelance PM and didn't enjoy it. It's fair to say that the hierarchy in AKQA is huge which means regardless of one's experience you have to go through a mountain of internal sign offs before any decision can be made. The APDs and Account Managers who you report into are rarely available due to workload and so regularly insist on you hanging around until late to meet with them. In an average week I would spend almost half my time in meetings and prep with them so they could present stuff to the client. As such little time was left to manage the project. Was offered a perm role but it wasn't the sort of project management I wanted to do.

    Advice to Management

    To be honest I think in this kind of place you either love it or hate. They are obviously a successful company so I guess it just doesn't suit my style of agile working.


  6. Helpful (28)

    "Sinking ship"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Project Manager in London, England (UK)
    Current Employee - Senior Project Manager in London, England (UK)
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at AKQA full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    A few years ago, AKQA was a great place to be. We had a great client list, motivated employees and a fantastic social scene. Sadly, that's no longer the case and all the good people are leaving as a result. Agency staff turnover is high everywhere, but I have never witnessed such a mass exodus and it's been going on for 6 months now. You're no longer allowed to send an email when you leave, because they're trying to stem the flow and keep it quiet.

    Cons

    A ridiculously political and unpleasant atmosphere that has grown as the old AKQAers left and were replaced with new senior staff who don't buy into the agency's old ethos.
    Budget cuts meant many worthy staff were denied promotions they were working well beyond, but the senior management all awarded themselved meaningless 'executive head of' titles. Worse still, they hushed this up for fear of rocking the boat, but everyone knew anyone. It's all very cloak and dagger and just dirty.
    HR do nothing to help the employees whatsoever.
    There is a culture of bullying and the people who have got to the top have trampled on anyone who they deemed a threat - this means all the good people have been weeded out and the ones who are left are the ones who shout the loudest and play the game.
    They broke the agency into different units with the own P+L and attemted to play them off against each other. This created new levels of management and gave individuals more responsbility. As an approach, fragmenting the agency was incredibly flawed as it siloed everyone and reduced mobility across the clients - particularly a problem in an agency with one shiny client, who everyone wants to work on. Imagine joining with the promise of one day working on Nike, only to get stuck on Ryanair...
    Motivation and morale dropped dramatically after this change and about a year later (with very minimal communication about what was happening), they decided to reverse all the changes and reunite the units. Of course, they'd created loads of senior roles which then had to be demoted to work under one another and this process was another incredibly badly managed and poorly communicated political mess.
    Even the inspirational founders have left - only Ajaz remains and we'll see how long he lasts. The creative department has been utterly decimated.
    If you want to know whether you'd like to work somewhere, just look at the stream of people speaking out, leaving, running for the door. And if you want to know whether the company will respect this feedback (which it gets at the exit interview stage), just look at all the fake reviews the HR team decided would be a good tactic on here. It's incredibly transparent and so very cheap.

    Advice to Management

    Roll back the clock 2 years. Fire the new management who simply are not AKQA and are destroying the place. Bring back the old spirit before you lose it altogether.


  7. Helpful (13)

    "Lack of teamwork, reward, dysfunctional and little support to operational employees"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in London, England (UK)
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in London, England (UK)
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at AKQA full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Work with some talented people in all specialisms
    On paper some on the projects and clients are great
    Good operational team morale and socialising

    Cons

    Silo mentality with projects and people with is unhealthy for morale and reward.
    Senior management look after themselves and ignore operational staff.
    Little reward and appreciation for working hard, long hours at the cost of personal life.
    Account management use project budget on jollies, trips abroad, long lunches, dinners and expenses and then cut budget in other areas of technclogy to deliver the project.
    Freelancers get more respect, work from home, sent abroad and generally get treated better than permanent staff.
    Projects get dragged out, so clients get overcharged.
    Very expensive budgets provided to clients who don't get ROI.
    Team morale is low as employees are not supported enough under demanding and challenging constraints.
    There is a lot of permanent staff who have been there a long time and are comfortable and want to stay in their bubble.
    In 5 years been there, been to one company meeting and party as project priority and late deadlines are more important.
    HR dept is very weak and not supportive to staff.
    Quarterly reviews are just a tick box and no value to employee support.
    Work hard, burn yourself to the ground and get rewarded with after work drinks mentality.
    Work comes first, family comes 2nd and at a cost.

    Advice to Management

    Work as one team, support each other, listen to operational employee at all levels, learn from mistakes and only then will deliver great projects, loyal employees, great company clients are proud of and see return of investment


  8. Helpful (15)

    "They have to fake reviews"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Operations in London, England (UK)
    Former Employee - Operations in London, England (UK)
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    Cool office in a good location. Fruit. Travel to their offices globally can be good.

    Cons

    The culture is dysfunctional, managers are divisive and dismissive, there is no care taken of employees. Management and Execs are self serving and seem to derive great satisfaction from putting down others and creating office drama. It is a cynical, empty and awful place to work.

    Advice to Management

    hard to say. If you haven't changed by now you never will.


  9. Helpful (12)

    "The end of an empire"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in London, England (UK)
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in London, England (UK)
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at AKQA full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Lovely people but even the most human are leaving.

    Cons

    This once great agency has fallen on hard times. No doubt the money will keep rolling in and they can definitely trade off their reputation for a few years to come.

    A mere five years ago no one was doing what AKQA was doing. They had the clients, the talent and technical infrastructure to get some incredible world firsts off the ground.

    Now smaller agencies and start ups can do what AKQA does for a fraction of the cost and at twice the speed. Even the quality that was AKQA’s trademark has fallen by the wayside. A bloated bureaucracy has arisen despite the cries of lean thinking and start up mindsets.

    Today it resembles a club that was once frequented by artistic greats, but is now filled with the industry’s equivalent of estate agents and financial advisors. Everyone wants a bit of the famous fire but only embers remain.

    If you can stomach it, by all means, go for a year. Get the initials on your CV but be in no doubt – this beast is choking out its death rattle.

    Advice to Management

    Pull a Brutus.


  10. Helpful (13)

    "Dismal. So glad I left!"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in London, England (UK)
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in London, England (UK)
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at AKQA full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Thinking about it, there were few pros to working here. Some colleagues are fine but all the good people eventually leave.
    London location is good. That's about it!

    Cons

    I am out of there nearly two years and I am so happy I made the decision to go. I had no alternative lined up but being unemployed for a little while was so much better than staying. AKQA is simply the worst place I have ever worked. Bullying is casual, backstabbing is the lifeblood of this place. The senior mgmt are terrified/cronies of the CEO which manifests in a culture of bullying and pettiness for those who report to them. It is awful.

    Advice to Management

    I bet you don't read Glassdoor. Perhaps you do but you don't care anyway.


  11. Helpful (8)

    "Never worked so hard and been treated so badly"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Software Engineer in London, England (UK)
    Former Employee - Senior Software Engineer in London, England (UK)
    Doesn't Recommend
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    It does some cool advertising stuff if you're into that kind of thing, and some of the other people are really talented.

    Cons

    Pretty much the longest run of unbelievably long hours I've ever worked - about 9 months straight of 80 hour weeks. Project management without a clue. Far too many people just buying into the idea of being cool and hip and making pretty things, and no appreciation of the people who are actually doing that.

    Advice to Management

    Stop working people so hard, listen to the people who know how to do the work rather than the people who are just telling you what you want to hear and playing politics.


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