We've been creative partners across 10 years, two continents, five ECDs and 206 late-night desk dinners. For both of us, it's one of the more significant relationships in our lives. A unique coupling that sits somewhere between marriage and business.
Most of our non-advertising friends don't understand the dynamic, saying they'd never be able to work with their closest friend. It's true, it is kinda weird. And generally (as most creative teams can attest), there's no roadmap or creative relationship counseling readily available, even in Los Angeles.
So we asked some creative teams who have also gone the distance to tell us their secrets to maintaining a thriving creative partnership.
Scott Harris and Damien Eley
Founders and ECDs, The Many
Duration: 22 happy years (depending on who you ask)
Pearl of partnership wisdom: Always be Lennon/McCartney
Who really wrote the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby"? Unlike other lyricist/composer partnerships, Lennon and McCartney never took sole credit for a song. Even if one-half of the duo had limited input from the other, they always claimed co-authorship. It was an agreement the pair made in their mid-teens and lasted until, you know, the split.
Early on in their own career, Damien and Scott decided to adopt the same philosophy. "Sometimes one of us would crack the big idea of a campaign we were working on; in other instances, someone may have played a larger part in the execution," Damien says. "Regardless, we always shared any credit we got straight down the middle."
It was an insurance policy that helped the pair not build too much of an ego. At 22 years together, and still going strong, it seems to have worked.
Rose Chirillo and Miche Sieg
Creatives and founders, MisterLA
Duration: Two years (but when you know, you know)
Pearl of partnership wisdom: Oversharing is caring
Rose and Miche are a relatively new couple, but they already know the keys to a happy work-wife relationship. Spoiler alert: It's communication. Their dynamic is their business. Mister is essentially an agency of two, which means their relationship has to stay healthy to succeed.
"As freelancers, we face a lot of unknowns, so the one constant we have is each other," they say. "Our mutual support, shared philosophy of laughter in the face of setbacks, and our ability to communicate when things get difficult keeps us together."
Mister doesn't let small insecurities fester, creatively or otherwise. They believe in addressing challenges head on, and calling each other out when either doesn't feel heard. Just as important is a mutual congratulations when they're really proud of something. As in any relationship, the good stuff is just as crucial to share as the tough stuff.
All of this boils down to a lot of checking in, whether it's on set, texting during a conference call, or FaceTiming from the bathroom (because sometimes you gotta). At the end of the day, just as an agency wants to keep its employees happy, Mister's goal is keeping each other (and themselves) happy. Because otherwise, what the heck is it all for?
Jack Wall and Phillip Harkness
Creatives, Saatchi Sydney and HarknessWall
Duration: Seven years (with a three-year courting period)
Pearl of partnership wisdom: Begin in the Trust Tree
Aussie creatives Jack and Phil have been working together at Saatchi Sydney for the past four years. In that time, they've developed a number of creative codes, including showing your thinking to someone who isn't your partner or your boss, because sometimes great partnerships start thinking the same way. They gave us a lot of words of wisdom, but our personal favorite is: "Every brief starts out in the Trust Tree. Some of our best ideas came from trusting each other with our bad ones."
As much as Jack and Phil have rules to keep the ideas flowing, they've also got keys to avoiding divorce. They advise creative partners to try to leave work together. "It's harder to resent your partner when they don't leave you to finish the deck, or pump out a script on your own," they say. Truth.
Celine Faledam and Rachel Guest
Associate creative directors, The Many
Duration: 9.2 years with a 10-month break
Pearl of partnership wisdom: Don't Brangelina
A few years into our career, our agency friends coined us Racheline. Cute, right? We thought so too. However, as we moved from Australia to Los Angeles and into the same neighborhood and social circles, our morphing identities became intensely more morphed. An overseas adventure with your best friend is, well, the best. The only downside is that as you begin to build a new life together, you start to mirror each other very quickly. Soon, we truly were Racheline. The scariest thing was IT. WAS. FINE. And if only those pesky 10-hour work days didn't get in the way, it would have been heaven.
At some point we realized that spending 80 percent of your time with the same person called for a few boundaries. For us, it was our name. We'd seen too many celebrity couples fall prey to the joint moniker, and refused the same fate. We also became more conscious of building distinct personal lives and identities inside and outside of work. Because apparently, that's healthy.
Don't get us wrong, you'll still find us hanging out most Saturdays, and our favorite thing to do after a pitch marathon is voluntarily go to dinner and spend more time together (mostly in silence). Weird to some, yes. But that's the beauty of these creative relationships that nobody else gets to understand.