Meeting at the Fish Haus
The BBDO Fish Haus on Lake Minnetonka Courtesy of BBDO Minneapolis

Meeting at the Fish Haus

BBDO Minneapolis takes “experiential” gatherings to the frozen lake.

The BBDO creative team had to forgo its usual PowerPoint presentation for Friday’s client meeting with Hormel. The company fish house lacks a big screen. And Wifi.

Indeed, the Minneapolis office of the global ad agency is now taking meetings from the middle of a frozen Lake Minnetonka. The firm rented an ice fishing house for the season, decked it out in North Woods-inspired décor, gave it a colorful exterior wrap, and named it the BBDO Fish Haus. BBDO Minneapolis president and CEO Neil White says the Fish Haus is not just a marketing gimmick; it will be used for team building as well as appointments with clients, which include Hormel, Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices, and Caringbridge.

“We’re in the business of creativity,” White said over fishing rods at the Fish Haus on Lake Minnetonka’s Phelps Bay. A native of South Africa who had no prior ice fishing experience, he admitted to jumping the first few times the ice shifted audibly, but he started to settle in after the first full afternoon of meetings last week. “We’re always thinking about how we bring experiences to life for our clients, get them to see what consumers are doing—outside the board room.”

Inside the BBDO Fish Haus on Lake Minnetonka

Outside of the typical meeting constraints of pitch decks and laptops, clients are more inclined to let their guard down, said BBDO director of account planning Casey Gilford. “We’re trying to have the conversations that wouldn’t normally be on the agenda, but are the conversations we should be having—the what ifs, the pie-in-the-sky conversations.”

The stakes are higher than ever as companies like BBDO try to entice both employees and clients back to in-person meetings. A recent Deloitte Insights report on the future of workplace engagement noted:

The ideal workplace is not just a physical site dictated by tradition, right, or necessity—but wherever work is best done. Organizations need to challenge traditional boundaries and design physical, digital, or hybrid environments that fit varying work needs, while respecting worker preferences and meta objectives such as culture, community, and teamwork. Workers can then determine when, where, and how to best accomplish the work within broad guidelines aimed at enabling, not constraining, these decisions.

A few months ago, BBDO, which offices in downtown Minneapolis, called employees back to the office part time, Monday through Wednesday. The decision was initially met with questions and some reluctance by employees, White said. One person quit; others wondered why they couldn’t chose their own days. But White’s main objective was not just to get people in the office, but to bring his team together. “It’s healthy for us to be around each other,” White said. “The energy is palpable.”

Clients, too, are increasingly interested in getting together, White said, especially for a unique experience—like ice fishing. “Initially there are a lot of questions—what to wear, how cold it is,” White said. Meetings at the Fish Haus begin with bait, but White said the pace of ice fishing allows ample time to get down to business.

“Collaborating in a unique environment helps you to look at things in a different way.”