Teamwork: Come together in sweet creativity

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Teamwork: Come together in sweet creativity


Back in the 1960s, so the popular tale goes, ad land was the domain of the Madison Avenue Drapers, immaculate eruptions of masculinity.

Nothing mattered as much as the ability of that one individual – the all-powerful Alpha - to take a pitch by the scruff of the neck and make it all about him.

Even if doing so opened up old wounds. This was how real heroes were made:

Everything else seems ephemera, everybody else just meat in the room. A bit like In The Loop’s hapless Simon Foster. Here he is, betrayed by his “team”, as his anaemic personality leaves him at the mercy of unfavourable seating arrangements and a tough crowd of heavy Capitol Hill hitters:

See where teamwork gets you? What you need is a Draper.

And it was towards this primacy of the individual that David Ogilvy leant towards. The doyen of the advertising spoke out in 1963, bemoaning the praise given to the band when the singer deserved the accolades: “This emphasis on ‘team-work’ is bunkum – a conspiracy of the mediocre majority”.

Creativity, argued Ogilvy, came from the mind of individual, not the “committee”. I mean, look at this ensemble. Inspiring team-working environment or what?

But here’s the thing: its not the 1960s, Don Draper ain’t real and in 2014, the author and essayist Joshua Shenk struck out at our rush to tip our Stetsons in the direction of the Lone Roger.

He argued that we’d reached the “end of genius”. Well, not quite end of genius, but rather the end of the individual genius. Pairs working in collaboration, says Shenk, are the source of great creativity. He talks of pairs such as Lennon & McCartney, Monet & Renoir and C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkein. Stitch that go-it-aloners, it takes two to tango.

And now lets land back in the creative industries. Well, teamwork here is alive and well. There’s the classic copywriter and art director combo of decorated art director Neil Godfrey and his mirror, iconoclastic copywriter Tony Brignull. He once memorably told the DMA and the rest of the world “copywriting is dead”. Gulp. Old school partners, though, who conquered the world together.

Then there’s New York design studio Sagermeister & Walsh. The kind of place where teamwork is embedded in such a degree that the founders announced their new studio collaboration by sending out a nude picture of themselves; where a new website relaunch was accompanied by further, ahem, risqué pictures of the team altogether; and where the studio’s working life is here for all to see on their live office webcam. Comfortable collaborators – and globally successful because of it. Look, their teamwork even took them interstellar(ish):

And to round-off this little tribute to teamwork, how about this summer’s Euro 2016 football tournament for proof that a team that sticks together, can win together.

Let’s take Iceland. Their innate togetherness transcends the challenges of picking from a tiny pool of players, with their national side set-up featuring a manager who is actually a dentist and a goalkeeper who is really a filmmaker. Their exploits this summer certainly warmed the heart of this Icelandic commentator:

So with the whole world wondering what their secret is, the Icelanders let that cat out of the bag with extraordinary displays of unity with their 12th man – their supporters.

10% of the island’s population travelled to France to watch their team compete, and together their Icelandic “Huh”, or Viking clap showed the unity between a team and its fans. Watch the “Huh” led here by captain Aron Gunnarsson after Iceland’s famous win over England. Or more dramatically here as 20,000 people gathered in Rejkavik to welcome the team home after their quarter-final defeat to France.

Safe to say that right here, right now it’s the team that comes out on top, rather than the individual. The shifting role of the copywriter is interesting here. Having touched on the traditional writer / art director duo earlier, we must recognise that dynamic is changing to incorporate the imputs of an even wider body of people.

Mr. President’s Laura Jordan Bambach – who headlined our What’s Next event this January - encourages writers to seek out the great in the people all around, not just those in front of them.

Because after all, there’s no “i” in team, but there’s two in “creativity”.

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