Let’s disagree to agree

When I was a junior copywriter I remember marvelling at how an ad ever got made. First the idea has to make it out of your own brain, then it has to be accepted by your creative partner, then the CD, then the client.

The one that I found a bit of struggle was the creative partner. Many times we agreed on what was a good solution to the brief, but disagreement happened often enough that I’d find it pretty frustrating. One way or another the CD and client are your bosses; what they say goes and after a few attempts at persuasion you have to accept what they say, but what about the person who sits across the desk from you? They’re usually at exactly the same level you are and yet they can still have the power of veto over your work.


If that happened you’d have to find another way. Sometimes we’d present both ideas to the CD and let him decide, other times I’m pretty sure I presented my idea round the side, either by showing the CD when my partner wasn’t around or slipping it into a review when the other work had been killed… ‘We did have this other idea about hot air balloons made of cheese…’ If either of those paths succeeded then my partner was often happy enough that we had an ad on the go to forgive my subterfuge; if they failed then it was never that big a deal. The partner would then feel somewhat vindicated and probably let it slide as a well-meaning throw of the dice.

But then it’s not the best way to work with someone you spent 8-10 hours a day with: ‘Hi, I didn’t really respect your creative opinion on that thing so I went behind your back in a way you could do nothing about. Now I get to say ‘I told you so’ and you kind of owe me. Or you now think I’m a bit of a sly prick.’

When I was at AMV Dave Dye told me what he and Sean Doyle would do under those circumstances. They would present neither of their preferred routes and instead come up with a third that they were both happy with. I was stunned to hear of this. That just doubled the workload AND it meant throwing out good ideas. Sacrilege! But it seemed to work for them, the super-talented, hard-working bastards.

On the occasions I was able to work on my own (freelancing, AD on holiday etc.) I felt a great sense of freedom that whatever decision I made would be the one that would be acted upon. Then again, I had no one to bat ideas off and I had nowhere to hide if the idea crashed and burned. Pros and cons…

How have you got past your disagreements? Have they been cataclysmic, or are you good-natured and polite about it? Do you feel like great solutions have remained unmade because you weren’t able to persuade your creative other half of their excellence?