Wednesday, 24 June 2015

"It takes two, baby."

Since Adam and Eve played snakes and apples the urge to pair off has been a powerful driver. Antony and Cleo, Romeo and Juliet, Abbott and Costello, two have always made a better story than one.

Even in the back-biting arena of adland it’s been that way from the late 40’s when Bill Bernbach opened the doors of DDB bringing with him his idea that writers and art directors should pair up in teams to combine their mighty talents in one office.
And it works. Sometimes you get a stupid partner, which allows you trample their ideas under the force of your intellect and ego, or you get a bright one whose coat tails you can grab at as they speed towards fame and fortune. More often though, especially when the teams have some say in the matter, you get a more equal meeting of minds, if not always personalities.

“Trust me”, the latest sitcom/dram to deal with all that is adland comes ambling out off the US of A. Centering on the relationship between Mason, the art director and Conner, the writer, played by Eric McCormick and Tom Cavanagh, it’s well enough observed to cause more than a few uncomfortable squirms of recognition. Particularly the tension between the pair as they try to come to terms with Mason being promoted to Conner’s boss will bring many a nod of recognition across adland.
Catch a trailer at:

People are always making the analogy between a creative team’s relationship and a marriage. This is of course rubbish. It’s much, much harder to maintain a decent working relationship than a marriage. For a start, you’re stuck mostly in the same room for longer than 9 hours a day, you hear the same stuff, music, client service babble, arguments, and you deal with it as a team, ie: tantrums, sulking, and jubilation. It’s not healthy.
For one thing there really is no place to hide, so you either rant your way through your differences or you crash and burn. And it only takes a few failed partnerships before you get labelled a problem partner. The divorces can be equally as messy however, skeletons tend to come crashing out of cupboards as both sides seek to blame and claim the upper hand, as well as the credit for any decent work that might have been created.
But, surprisingly, some of these teams do stick together, changing agencies, jobs and even countries to add new spice to their lives.

No one gets between a great team, bad blood is leaked behind closed doors and a united front beats back the most ardent of attacks. And great teams create great work. They scoop the fame we all crave and the rewards we all feel we deserve. They also get their names on the doors of agencies.

Duos have always haunted advertising. From Mac man vs PC man with their cutesy little jibes. (all very PC, as it were), and sterile environment.
Boot up a couple of examples at:

To the sheer brilliance of the Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins in the classic Cinzano ads (which include the rather fabulous line: “The Aroma wasn’t built in a day.”) LOL at:

One of the worst things that a creative team can find on their desk is a brief that comes complete with its own built in salesman, or worse, men. You have to spend half your day trying to shoe-horn some new, pithy and supposedly humorous responses into the mouths of these guys with one eye over your shoulder at the “character intrinsics” which have been built up over years of crushingly bad scripts and careless thinking.
Believe me there is nothing worse than having some humourless planning guy hanging around your office door extolling the benefits of the Brand equity he has built up over the years through a couple of two-dimensional drivel spouting prats which he insists are central to every commercial.

Take the blight of CTM’s now dead and unlamented Bob and Nige with their puerile sexist humour and pathetic asides. I bless the day they were finally laid to rest and hopefully cast into a pit of grout. (I would give you a link to some examples of their sub-human chit chat, but that would just be nasty).

Naturally there are exceptions. If you’re dynamic duo happened to be the couple of actors attached to an old Carling Black Label brief then your luck was definitely in. You could pack your bag and buy that ticket to Cannes to roil in the delights of being up to your derriere in awards when these two guys put your script to the test. Have a look at: to see how an ad can be well written and crafted but still hold the basic daft humour. (Even the pack shot is a laugh).

Of course for a team to be really effective they need to work seamlessly, to read each other’s minds and even anticipate each other’s actions and reactions. This takes a bit of time to get right but can pay great dividends if achieved properly. Take those old gag men The Two Ronnies, in their most famous sketch, “Fork Handles,” they balance each others frustration perfectly as the tension between them builds. It may be old but it’s gold:

To prove that teamwork is alive and kicking I’d like to thank my own art director for suggesting the topic for this week’s column.
But then she’s full of good ideas.

No comments:

Post a Comment