Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tuesday Tip No.8 - Finding The Right Partner

Having a partner is quite unusal in the world of work. But it's great. You've always got someone to talk to at parties. You have someone to bounce ideas around with. And as someone without a partner told me yesterday, it stops the voices.

Creative partnerships are vitally important, so I'm going to spread the topic over three weeks - Finding The Right Partner, How To Work Well With Your Partner, and Breaking Up With Your Partner.

For once, this week's subject is one I'm mildly qualified to talk about. Nick and I have been together for ten years. Most of them miserable of course, but nevertheless, it's lasted.

It's often said that a creative partnership is like a marriage. And it is. Except you'll probably see more of your partner than you do of your spouse. And you don't have sex with them. Or you shouldn't, anyway.

So you have to make sure it's the right person.

Here's a checklist to help you choose.

1. Trust your instincts. Don't 'talk yourself into' a partnership. If it doesn't feel right, it isn't.

2. Don't team up with someone just because they're already in a job or a placement, or have more experience than you so they "must be good". Judge the person not their situation because the situation will change, the person won't.

3. Don't leap straight into a partnership. If possible, do a trial run first. Work together for a week or two and see how it goes.

4. Don't be embarrassed to check them out. Google them. Talk to people who know them. Are they a psycho? Avoid them.

5. Look under every stone. If you're looking for a partner, tell everyone you know. Maybe they know someone. Speak to all the headhunters too.

6. You MUST MUST MUST find someone who thinks a bit different to you. No point having two people who think the same way. If that is the case, why have two?

7. On the other hand, you MUST find somebody you have quite a bit in common with. If you are a 36 year-old male from Manchester, and your partner is a 21 year old female from Moscow, then you are going to have big problems. You are going to say "we could art direct it in the style of the Clangers" and she is going to say "what is this Clangers?"

8. It helps if you find them a bit funny. Whether you laugh with them or at them doesn't matter. As long as there's some humour there.

9. Find someone as committed as you are. In other words, if you want to work Christmas Day, find someone else who wants to work Christmas Day. And if you are lazy, find a partner who is equally lazy. A mismatch here and you are in trouble. How did Tom Carty meet Walter Campbell? They were constantly running into each other in their creative department's kitchen, making coffee at 10.30pm. Everyone else had gone home. Including their respective partners.

10. Find someone you find interesting. You are going to have to sit opposite them for upwards of 9 hours a day. You are going to have to take aeroplanes with them, sit in edit suites and soulless conference rooms with them. Pick someone who says something interesting now and again.

Oh, and you've got to rate their work.

Tip No.7
Tip No.6
Tip No.5
Tip No.4
Tip No.3
Tip No.2
Tip No.1


William said...

Great tips as always Mr Scamp.

In fact, I'm a little gutted that I paid for an Ad course that was less helpful.

By the way, I've given up on advertising for the time being and have landed a job as a sort of professional blogger.

Scamp said...

Sounds interesting. Can you tell us what it is yet?

William said...

Will do in about a week's time.

It may mean the death of Standinaqueue, unless I can find a new owner.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're taking on the subject of partnerships, because this is the probably the most intriguing type of professional relationship I've ever encountered.
I'm very curious to know how agencies themselves manage them - do they ever try and manipulate partnerships by trying to break them up and shake them around? Is that legal?
And how do partnerships survive when one of the pair is, for example, the executive creative director? I guess you'd need a thick skin if you were lower in the corporate hierarchy than your other half.

Scamp said...

Yes, creative directors do sometimes "re-combine" their teams.

Two famous examples were Saatchi in the late 90s, where 4 or 5 teams were broken up at the same time, and TBWA last year.

Usually, the CD is trying to put the stronger member of each team together, thus forming one 'super-team' which he hopes will shine, and a 'dud team' which he hopes will leave.

But it doesn't always work out that way.

For example, Nik Studzinski was a supposed dud put with another supposed dud at Saatchi, and the two of them went on to do a ton of great work, and Nik is now ECD at Publicis.

The fact is that sometimes the less showy one is actually the more talented one, Nik and his ex-partner being a good example of this.

Scamp said...

Whoops, forgot your other question.

How partnerships survive when only one of them is promoted is very tricky.

The answers are as various as human nature itself.

Some accept it with good grace. Some explode.

But quite often, a promotion coincides with one half of a team leaving their partner and their agency to get a CD job.

It's quite rare one happens to come up in the agency you're already in.

Differences in seniority can work fine if both parties are happy with what they're getting.

Sometimes a CD copywriter will have an art director 'consort' - Trevor Beattie has had a few over the years.

Or a CD art director will have a writer consort.

It's a weird weird business, this partnership thing.

But then so is advertising in general.

copyranter said...

took me a year of looking at books to find my current AD. took 2 years to find the previous one. Mostly it's because I'm a pain-in-the-ass to work with.

Anonymous said...

It never ceases to amaze me how some creatives manage to match up a partner at all. A few I've met are high maintenance and borderline insane. And utterly brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you guys have gotten to choose your respective partners?

Shit, can't say I've ever been in a situation where I can say.. "yeah.. that's the art director I want to work with." I've just leapfrogged from one agency to the next and often times I've worked with various artists at the same time, something which has allowed me to learn a lot in a short time.

To put it in numbers, in less than four years, I've worked with about 16 art directors.

I've had the chance to work with people my age, younger people, older people and different mindsets for the same situation. I've worked with men and women, straight, gay and bi, locals and foreigners, people who have respected me and people who have written me off. I've had to switch mindframes from one hour to the next and I've been lucky enough to get along with most of them with two very, very crummy exceptions. One we just didn't get along, and the other was a mediocre cunt. I'd elaborate, but she really isn't worth it.

Currently though, I'm paired up with the Art Director whom I've had the best professional, personal, and creative chemistry up to date so I can't help but be thankful for the guy and my luck.

But it is true, it is like a marriage and you need enough difference to keep things interesting while having enough in common to not say the person is a dipshit. We've covered each others back countless times and when one or the other hasn't been able to deliver, the other jogs the mind and we get shit done. Will the "marriage" last? Who knows. But maybe someday I'll be able to post about our anniversaries and the sweet details he brings me to make me blush and shit.

Anyways, great post and if you're lucky enough to choose who you work with, follow the tips, follow advice and follow your gut.

Cheers mate

Anonymous said...

Whats ur email address Scamp?

Anonymous said...

Just a detail, but you got it wrong about Nik being a 'supposed dud' put with another 'supposed dud'. Both Gav and Nik were highly thought of, as were their partners Jason and Greg. It was more a case of the two being friends and wanting to try it out. In the case of both pairs.

Anonymous said...

Just wondered what Scamp's view was on Art Director/Art Director or Copywriter/Copywriter partnerships? In other words teams that would rather not commit to a particular role, and would rather be flexible?