Feature

Life after the divorce

Two heads can often be better than one when it comes to devising innovative, long-lasting and strong creative work, but what happens when the creative partners go their separate ways?

When long-standing creative teams part, the common perception is that there's been a huge ruck which forced the split.

After all, teams thrive on creative tension to create their best work, don't they? Sooner or later, that boils over into resentment. Dissolving the partnership is the only answer.

There are many reasons why creatives part company: some seek a new challenge; some because it's hard to sustain the intensity that breeds great work; others because promotion forces the split. Most part on friendly terms.

When Justin Tindall left DDB London to join The Red Brick Road as the creative director, he ended a long partnership with Adam Tucker. They had worked together for 17 years, and to scotch the rumours that the split was acrimonious, they threw a divorce party to celebrate their new-found freedom.

"Our split was probably weirder for others than it was for us," Tindall says. "Our working lives had become less creative and more administrative."

For those who have always worked with a partner, there is a temptation to test the waters.

The United managing partner and creative director, Robert Campbell, worked with Mark Roalfe for 23 years. The pair met at Freemans Matthews & Treasure and went on to found (and leave) the Banks Partnership, before forming Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe in 1992. Campbell left in 2004 to join McCann Erickson London. "I left Mark because I wanted to find out if I could do it myself," he says.

The increasing number of agencies looking to appoint a sole executive creative director, rather than teams, means once they reach a certain level, creatives are often forced to leave if they want the top job.

Opinion is split over whether teams or solo creatives are better custodians of the creative floor. Those opposing the team idea say any creative differences in the partnership tend to split the allegiance of teams beneath it; while others argue one person cannot fulfil the demands of a modern creative director's job.

In the past year, there have been some high-profile splits, including Sean Doyle and Dave Dye at Shop; Richard Flintham and Andy McLeod at Fallon; Justin Tindall and Adam Tucker at DDB; and Chris O'Shea and Ken Hoggins at Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy. Here, the former partners reminisce about working together, and describe what their working lives are like after the divorce.

RICHARD FLINTHAM & ANDY MCLEOD

Richard Flintham and Andy McLeod met at Hounslow College in 1986. They went on to form a long-standing partnership at BMP DDB, before co-founding Fallon London. They split in January after McLeod left to direct commercials for Rattling Stick.

RICHARD ON ANDY

Music and memories are stored in the same place in my head, so here's some sort of Top Ten.

(1) Trying to rap over The Message at the house we shared 20 years ago.

(2) Sunday morning, on a placement at Samuel & Pearce in Richmond, Metallica's Master of Puppets playing full volume, acting like we'd made it, but being careful not to knock anything over.

(3) The theme from Hawaii Five-O played daily by John O'Keeffe (rubbish bin) and Frank Houston (guitar) outside our placement office at Saatchis.

(4) A TDK D60 of Tom Waits' Nighthawks at the Diner never far from the stereo: "... veal cutlet came down, tried to beat the shit out of my cup of coffee ... coffee wasn't strong enough to defend itself."

(5) Watching Andy getting booed off stage on his stag-do after singing just one word of Yesterday by The Beatles.

(6) The Prodigy open-air concert in Prague at the start of a three-week VW shoot.

(7) Having our mugs broadcast live on to two 40-foot screens at BMP's 30th celebrations at the Albert Hall, and feeling obliged to sing along to Chas & Dave's Gertcha ... on our own, I think.

(8) Reviewing music with our "advertising mum", Kirsty Burns, on a night shoot in Manchester as the bus was being stoned by locals.

(9) Lovin' You by Minnie Riperton, the soundtrack to the Umbro goalposts ad. I think this ad sums up what we were trying to do more than any other.

(10) Oasis' Champagne Supernova on the jukebox shortly before a very rare "we did alright, didn't we?" moment at Andy's leaving do.

ANDY ON RICHARD

Richard and I worked together for 18 years, up until about a week ago. We had a fucking great time! Every now and then we would hear rumours that we weren't getting on. We were very passionate about the work, and sometimes that led to disagreements. But what's the point of paying two people to sit in a room if all they do is agree with each other?

Being a creative team was, to us, all about bringing different views together in order to make something great out of them. So we might fight each other along the way, but once we'd got to what we thought was the right answer, we'd fight back to back for it - us against the world. We loved it. We weren't in it to be mates, we were in it to be as good a creative team as we could be. We didn't go around each other's houses at weekends or anything. But guess what, now it's all done and dusted, I'd probably take a bullet for him, and I bet he'd take one for me, too.

SEAN DOYLE & DAVE DYE

Sean Doyle teamed up with Dave Dye at Leagas Delaney in 1996. The pair went on to join BMP, then Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, before launching the start-up Campbell Doyle Dye with Walter Campbell.

SEAN ON DAVE

Three qualities come to mind when I think of Dave.

His obsessiveness. He's one of the world's best art directors because he's incapable of letting go. He'll hone and tweak and no deadlines or account people will stand in the way of his determination to get it right.

His George Costanza-like way of putting his foot in it. While standing in an ATM queue once, we saw a bloke, down on his luck, sitting against a wall, holding a paper coffee-cup. Dave felt sorry for him, but didn't want to lose his place in the queue, so he tossed a pound coin the four yards to the man's cup. A perfect shot. Slight error, though: there was a splash. The guy wasn't after charity, he was one of those people who's dead against being scalded.

His debating skills. As much as you'd point out that PDQ wasn't a word but an abbreviation, and therefore unacceptable in Scrabble, he wouldn't move on until you gave him the 15 points and a full apology.The weirdest thing about splitting up is that your funny, shared references no longer have a place. Do the words Jo, Shy/Asshole Confusion, Veg Samosa, Coward's Way and Johnson in Accounts mean anything to anyone else out there?

DAVE ON SEAN

Unfortunately, communication isn't a science. So creating it with a partner is tough. All your opinions have to be shared then agreed. Most teams, at least the ones who give a damn, argue almost constantly. Sean and I were no different.

We bickered about everything. Is Northern Soul better than Nick Drake? Which is the best cheese? In 1985, who was better, Trott or Hegarty?

But these arguments, however fierce, were always fun and they set a tone where we competed with each other, each trying to think a fresher idea than the other.

But that intensity is difficult to sustain, we managed it for ten years, of which I'm very proud.

Oh, and Sean, if you're reading: Northern Soul is a cult because it didn't sell. It didn't sell because no-one liked it, and no-one liked it because it was shit.

KEN HOGGINS & CHRIS O'SHEA

Ken Hoggins and Chris O'Shea came together at Lowe in 1984. They launched Chiat Day UK in 1989, before founding Banks Hoggins O'Shea in 1991. They left in 2004 to form HOW, which merged with Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy in 2005. O'Shea announced his retirement last month.

KEN ON CHRIS

Just before I teamed up with Chris at Lowe, I was invited by the then creative director, Alfredo Marcantonio, to join Lowe's table at the D&AD Awards night.

During the evening, I remember Chris muttering something about being worried about catching the last train home. I thought no more of it and the evening wore on ... Finally, it came to the coveted, world-famous D&AD black Pencil. The ultimate accolade. Absolute respect from your peers. The spotlight snaked towards Lowe's table. It finally came to rest. On an empty seat. Although Chris had won a black Pencil for writing a Cow & Gate ad, he had decided, on balance, he would rather catch the last train home.

I realised I was about to start working with a very singular writer.

For the record, during our long working partnership, almost all of our good ideas were, in fact, mine. He had little or nothing to do with any of them. The truth is, I've carried this bloke for 23 years.

CHRIS ON KEN

There aren't many creative marriages that last 23 years. So what was our secret? In my view, incompatibility.

Ken and I were always very different. When we were young, he was the cool one the girls always looked at first, barely glancing at the short spotty bloke by his side. He'd wear Giorgio Armani, I'd wear George. He'd holiday in exotic climes, I'd go to a beach hut in Frinton.

Workwise, I was the plodder, the fretter, the detail man. I'd worry a brief to death. He would ignore it, then deliver a solution based purely on instinct. I would labour for days on a piece of copy, he'd decide the five-year future of a campaign in seconds.

Finally, we even differed on when to leave the business. So, I've gone and he's stayed.

But such disparity worked a treat. Without getting too girly about it, I'll miss Ken, and I owe him a lot. But not, I should point out, everything.

For the record, during our long partnership, almost all of our good ideas were, in fact, mine. He had little or nothing to do with any of them. The truth is, I've carried this bloke for 23 years.

ADAM TUCKER & JUSTIN TINDALL

Adam Tucker and Justin Tindall spent the majority of their 17-year partnership at DDB London. They split last year when Tindall left to join The Red Brick Road.

ADAM ON JUSTIN

I was friends with Justin long before we worked together. I first saw him in the Goldsmiths college bar in 1986. Back then, he was pretty hard to miss. He had dreadlocks. Blond ones.

We painstakingly put together a terrible book and spent two years being abused by war-weary veterans of the late 80s recession.

Eventually we got a job at the then, and now, unheard of SMI. Then at FCA! (that's a goner, too). We made mistakes and learned from some of them. By the time we got to BMP DDB, we'd perfected our "bad cop, worse cop" routine.

We're very different people and maybe that's why things worked out.

Justin is very patient. Unlike me, he can listen to people say "brandalism" without resorting to violence. He can hide disappointment, scepticism and pessimism. And he can make something average look great. That's talent.

Even though we've parted, it feels like Justin's still around, helping me to judge ideas, make ads and aggressively stamp on half-arsed strategies.

JUSTIN ON ADAM

Goldsmiths in 1986 was an extraordinary time. Damien Hirst was producing chicken wings from his foreskin and Michael Craig Martin (our tutor) was teaching us that "the idea" is the purist form of art.

Advertising came in our third year. Adam said he'd heard about a job where you got paid loads of money to sit around coming up with the purist form of art.

Two years of unemployment and sickening abuse from "where are they now" creatives (mostly called Robin) followed, which probably defined us.

Seventeen years later, hand on my heart, I can say the highs far outweigh the lows. The Wales Tourist Board, a call from Mark Reddy, BMP, Roy's brick, the RSA party, the odd gong. They're all up there.

I feel incredibly lucky to have met Adam. The years since have been the best of my 40. If nothing else, we got better and had a laugh along the way. I value his opinion above all others; there isn't a day goes by that I don't think: "What would Adam do?"

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