FCB Toronto enters the metaverse

The agency has recreated its office in social platform Gather Town as part of broader workplace culture and mental health efforts.

SR - Showtime

FCB Toronto has forayed into the metaverse with a new endeavour that has recreated the agency’s physical office on Gather Town, a social platform that features organic video chat.

The initiative is one piece of the mental health and corporate culture “puzzle,” says Tracy Little, EVP and general manager at the agency. By giving people the opportunity to simulate the experience of interacting with their coworkers in a physical environment – the office – it enables “the physical connection that comes from that space.”

“It’s a different way to bring people together and engage them,” she explains. “We all went through that first three to six months [of the pandemic] where it felt like Zoom was fun and new and we did all of our virtual meetups that way, but it got tired quickly.”

BellFCB Toronto’s office – as well as the Shoeless Joe’s pub the team would often meet at for social gatherings – have both been faithfully recreated in Gather Town, right down to small details such as the bell president Bryan Kane rings for new business and big awards wins (which plays a video of Kane ringing the bell when someone approaches), as well as Todd, senior copywriter Sara Radovanovich’s pet dog who often visited the office pre-pandemic.

Those details help to reinforce the agency’s culture – as well as convey it to employees who have been hired during the pandemic and have never seen the office in person.

“In the same way that you can walk into someone’s home and get a feeling for who they are, the way the Gather Town office is built out, it gives people a feeling for who we are beyond what we can convey in words,” says Little. “You’re immersed in it through the environment and the initiative that created that environment.”

When people pass each other in the digital hallways, they can open up video conversations with each other, allowing them to simulate the quick, water cooler-style chats of the pre-pandemic world. Those interactions “let people be people and enjoy each others’ company outside of a meeting,” which is an important part of a larger mental health initiative the company has embraced with other measures and policies, Little says.

Those policies include Your Time – an hour-long period from 1 to 2 p.m. each day where staff are encouraged to step away from their computers and take time for themselves. FCB is also adopting a policy pioneered by Rethink that forbids presentations on Mondays, allowing employees to enjoy their weekends without worrying about preparing them.

Each individual initiative is monitored by management, Little says, to “figure out what’s working and what’s not.”

“We’ll keep the best of it, and keep trying and iterating until we figure this out,” she adds.

FCB is not the only agency to recreate its office in the digital space. In July, John St. worked with popular Minecraft player Gamefruitpulp to recreate its downtown office in the game for a 20th anniversary celebration.