Sometimes 2+2=5, but how many times has 2+bath equalled ostrich?

An interesting aspect of the advertising creative’s lot is their team chemistry.

The overwhelming majority of copywriters and art directors work as a duo, so beyond their own individual abilities they have to try to create a successful working combination. That throws up a multiplicity of questions and circumstances, all of which can have a massive bearing on the output that ensues:

Is this possible partner Mr./Mrs. Right or just Mr./Mrs. Right Now? You have to have a partner, so you have to go for someone, but what if the perfect Yin is not available for your Yang? You have to compromise, but to what extent?

How do you find that partner? If you go to some kind of advertising college you have a couple of advantages: you’re discovering the skill and the business from the same starting point; but you also have a larger number of people to choose from, so there’s a better chance of finding your Romeo/Juliette.

What if you don’t appreciate what your other half gives you? I’ve long believed that it can be very helpful to have a team composed of a shit-hot creative and a shit-hot PR-ish person, someone who will schmooze the best briefs out of the CD and help sell the resulting work down the line, protecting it from possible damage along the way. But in the early days the PR half’s benefits may not be immediately apparent, and even later, might you resent them for being less ‘creative’?

What if circumstances lead to a change of teams later in a career? Your partner might get disillusioned enough to leave the industry; they might have to follow their boy/girlfriend to a new country; they might get fired; your CD might want to shake things up; another creative in the department might chat up your partner in the agency bar, and over a few months persuade them to leave you. Whatever happens, you then have to find another partner in your agency, or, if you are then considered to be surplus to requirements, you have to go out into the big wide world and find another partner. Are the partnerless options a bit crap? Why is a divorced person divorced? Are they damaged goods or were they just mismatched in the first place? Lots of fine creatives kissed a few frogs before finding their prince, or at least made the best of a situation that was not quite perfect.

What if your combination is just off? Two plus two can end up equalling all sorts of things if you get it right/wrong. When Tom got together with Walt it was a match made in advertising heaven. The same went for Mark Denton and Chris Palmer, Dave Dye and Sean Doyle, John Hegarty and Barbara Nokes, Richard Flintham and Andy MacLeod etc. etc. What if Walt, Chris, Sean, Barbara and Richard had been working elsewhere? What if they had never existed? Would the work of Tom, Mark, Dave, John and Richard have been better or worse? What if Dye had teamed up with MacLeod? What if Denton had joined Nokes? We’ll never know (unless they decide to go for those pairings now), but the possibilities are intriguing.

I think the very good creatives can make many partnerships work. If you go through old award books you’ll find some of them winning prizes in different combinations. But the question remains: what if Lennon had met Dylan instead of McCartney, or Neil Young had found himself somehow working alongside Pete Waterman. What works of genius have we missed? What terrible pairings has fate allowed us to avoid?

Quantum physics suggests the answers lie somewhere in the universe, but it also suggests we are all random compositions of energy that render our human forms laughably pointless.

Pay your money, take your choice.