No-one expected Vaughan and Anthea to split. What went wrong?
When Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston sang It Takes Two, clearly they weren’t
discussing commercials directors. Earlier this month, Federation’s star
(and only) team, Vaughan and Anthea, announced they were going their
separate directorial ways, the latest in a long line of severed
Although there are plenty of directing duos around, not many seem to
last the course. The Douglas Brothers and the Brothers Quay are notable
exceptions but, as they say, blood is thicker than water. And there are
younger teams such as Big TV, Rose Hackney Barber’s Pete Salmi and Carl
Prechezer, Blink’s Steve Reeves and Paul Gay, Pink Films’ New
Renaiscance and Red Herring’s Brendon Norman-Ross and Sue Worthy who,
for the moment at least, are happy to share credits. But Vaughan and
Anthea’s split was unexpected because they seemingly had the world - or
at least adland - at their feet.
They were persistently courted by star creatives, handed choice scripts
on a regular basis and were all-but buried in awards. Recently, they
made a return to pop promos - which is where they made their mark - with
a video for George Michael’s number one single, Fast Love. So what went
wrong? Was this just yet another case of directors realising they can
earn twice as much on their own than as one half of a partnership?
As Vaughan (Arnell) and Anthea (Breton) are known to be somewhat
Garboesque, Campaign asked other directing duos about doing it as a
After leaving the then Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow Johnson, the former
creative directors, Mark Denton and Chris Palmer, directed under the
guise of Bert Sprote through the now-defunct Redwing Films. Their finest
hour together was probably an elaborate, split-screen cinema ad for Hugo
Boss through Bartle Bogle Hegarty.
‘Doing anything is easier if there are two of you,’ Denton points out.
‘You’re not alone, so it’s less scary. And you can concentrate on
different areas, which means standards stay high. If you get it right,
the sum becomes greater than the parts. But any partnership has a
As did Bert Sprote. Denton left and is now ensconced at Brian Byfield
Films, while Palmer set up his own production company, Gorgeous
Enterprises. Palmer has spots for Budweiser, Volkswagen, Golden Wonder
and Carling Black Label to his name, while Denton has worked on Nik-Naks
and Dry Blackthorn. ‘I don’t think co-directing works,’ Palmer says. ‘If
you can do it on your own, why do it with someone else? There’s enough
collaboration going on down the line anyway.’ Even so, he admits he was
shocked by Vaughan and Anthea’s split. ‘They seemed to be the exception
that proved the rule,’ he says.
Trevor Robinson, now directing solo at Jane Fuller Associates, but
formerly one half of Trev ’n’ Al, firmly believes directing partnerships
are worthwhile. ‘It enables you to see things from a different
perspective,’ he argues. ‘You can bounce ideas off each other, you have
to justify everything you do.’
Robinson’s erstwhile partner, Al Young, has returned to Howell Henry
Chaldecott Lury, where he and Robinson made their names with campaigns
for Tango and Pot Noodle.
‘It wasn’t that we had creative differences,’ Robinson explains, ‘it’s
just that our motives for working had moved apart; he feels more
comfortable in an agency environment.’
On a practical level, too, it often helps to have an ally. ‘It means you
can be in two places at once,’ says Steve Reeves of Reeves and Gay, the
ex-BMP creative team who have recently completed ads for Electrolux and
Ford through Blink Productions. ‘You can leave the room knowing that
your interests are looked after and your point of view is put across. On
set, if your voice gets hoarse from trying to get a performance from an
actor, the other one can take over. And you can get twice as much work
In the end, a directing partnership stands or falls by compatibility.
‘Relationships are all different,’ Salmi, of Rose Hackney Barber, muses.
‘Some are whirlwind romances that don’t last, others chug along for
years, constantly finding new things about each other.’
‘Harvey [Betram-Brown] and I are friends and really get on well,’
Carolyn Corben, one half of New Renaiscance, adds. ‘Joyful things come
out of our work because we’re having a good time together. It’s a kind
of marriage of minds.’ Unfortunately, some marriages can turn sour,
which, it is assumed, is what happened to Vaughan and Anthea.
But Reeves prefers to see recent events in a more positive light. ‘They
were together for more than a decade and directed some of the best ads
around during that time. That’s successful isn’t it?’