Collaboration and trust

This this morning I received the sound file from Matthew of the main theme of This concert will fall in love with you… A really exciting moment hearing the first musical ideas taking shape. The piece may be as long as 40 minutes long, with words and music interwoven. Already Matthew has articulated a beautiful uncertainty in the music, which is perfect for the concept.

I am also currently working closely with Richard Fleming in Guernsey on a collaborative poetry project, called A Guernsey Double.

A successful collaboration needs chemistry of course. But I am a great believer in practicalities too. The most basic of these is that you need clear areas of expertise. In my project with Matt the difference is obvious: music is Matt’s domain, and words are mine.

One of the best things about having a background in a creative agency is that working collaboratively is second nature. As a writer I have usually been paired with an art director when tasked to dream up brands, or create campaigns or concepts. And this ping pong of ideas is, for my money, the most fun you can have in an agency.

Trust is the essential factor. When trust your partner, it is much easier to sacrifice your own idea when your partner comes up with a superior one – and know that they’ll do the same for you.

When trust exists it means you can make what is being created more important than either of your egos. And that has to lead to better work in the end.

As a footnote, and I don’t know if this is just one of my own foibles, I find it much easier to pitch work that I have worked collaboratively on. Knowing that it’s not just me who thinks something’s good, really helps when you are selling it into a client or, in the case of my current collaborations, when we set about promoting them to the public.

pitching in

Called into my old agency to team up with my former art director, and lend a hand with a new business pitch. Pitching is the most fun about agency work. In a masochistic way I have grown to like the adrenaline surge of the pitch presentation. You get a real sense of team too. And it’s funny that when all the fights, and tight-lipped conversations at midnight, exhausted rehearsals are resolved, and you’ve surfed a wave of adrenaline and shone in front of your potential client, how suddenly all these people you’ve gone through hell with are your best mates again.

Some quirk means that I find it easy to be ultra competitive if I’m part of a team. Kicking sand in the face of your opposition it feels less personal when there’s a bunch of you.

This time however I was firmly behind the scenes. Mike my art director and I in familiar territory. Gulping coffee, and up against a tight deadline with loads to do, but knowing each other inside out. And creating pitch work means you can do anything you want – the client not only wants to see that you can deliver the kinds of work they will need, but also are prepared to be wowed, and will give you extra points if you come up with material they’ve never contemplated.

In this pitch, to launch product x, we decided at the last minute to involve a blimp, and life size pictures for the sides of buses and so on. You can merrily suggest all this in a pitch because there is often a willing suspension of disbelief on both sides.

And sometimes, just sometimes the client will go for it, and you get to do something really spectacular.

Below “Hmm. Maybe you’re right. The aircraft carrier is overkill…”