It has been almost a year since we started our first full-time job in advertising. We were pretty clueless (still are) and probably tested a lot of people’s patience (still do). But as we approach our one-year anniversary at Dark Horses, we realised that we’re in a pretty unique position of having spent more than half our careers in lockdown.
Strangely, though, settling into lockdown-working was a bit easier for us than you’d expect. For most of the office (and the industry), lockdown meant scrambling to establish a new normal. In many ways for us, it meant a return to it. Before Dark Horses, we’d spent months working on our portfolio and at the time neither of us lived in London (or anywhere near each other), so we mostly worked remotely anyway.
However, as the weeks of lockdown turned into months, the lack of experience and relative newness started to make things tougher, and we’ve found ourselves having to force ideas more than usual. But at least we learned a few things from it.
It showed us the importance of not getting stuck in one place – not just when we’re working from home, but when we eventually get back into the office too. Pre-Covid we rarely used to go out for a walk or to a coffee shop, we’d just find somewhere in the office to sit and think until an idea came to us.
That was probably because as junior creatives we wanted people to see that we were working hard, but working remotely from the rest of the agency showed us that people just want us to bring the best ideas we can. If that means working in the office, from home or anywhere else, then who cares.
It’s something Steve Howell, our ECD, always encouraged us to do, but we never took him up on it. We probably will do now.
The other difference we’ve noticed between working in the office and working from home is that asking people for advice on your ideas outside of reviews can be harder.
Obviously, we still pester the other creatives with emails, WhatsApps, meetings and so on, and it’s always incredibly helpful, but it’s not as easy as leaning over to discuss an idea with the person sitting opposite, or chatting about it while we make toast in the kitchen.
But it means we’ve had to become more self-assured, and even though we don’t plan to ask for advice any less (if anything, it’ll be the opposite), it’s nice to have more confidence in our own abilities.
Above all else, though, the biggest learning experience for us during these seven months of lockdown was our first ever shoot – a 30-second TV ad. Watch this space.
In many ways it was a pity that it wasn’t under normal circumstances: we had to watch remotely from a live feed, we didn't get to meet the director or any of the cast in person, and we didn’t get to enjoy the catering on set (the best part, apparently). We’re told all of these things would happen normally. Who knew?
At the end of the shoot, though, it was an amazing experience and there was so much that we learned from it, but probably the biggest takeaway was getting to work with the clients much more than we normally would.
However, at least we got the luxury of enjoying office life for a few months before a second lockdown. We know there must be loads of people starting their careers from their tiny bedrooms, noisy flatshares or parents’ houses now – not ideal. For those people, we’ve got these tips that will hopefully help in some way.
Don’t get stuck in one place, whether it’s the office or at home. Obviously, it's easier said than done right now, but for us it's easier to come up with different ideas when we’re not stuck in the same place – a park, a walk, it all helps the creative process.
Voice notes. Nothing beats being together in person but if you can’t do that then voice notes are a really good alternative. It’s easier than texting and works well if you cheaped out on wi-fi (like we did) and can’t do loads of Zoom calls.
Use the people around you if you can, but if you can’t, then trust your own ideas.
Try to figure out what the client wants. If you know what they're going to say then you can figure out how to make it work with your idea. This one may sound obvious, but it's difficult when you maybe haven’t met them or aren’t in constant contact with the rest of the team on the account.
Lockdown has been a baptism of fire for us – definitely in a good way, although hopefully by next year we’ll both have spent a bit less time working from our sofas.
Matt Adams and Will Butler are junior creatives at Dark Horses