Years ago, when I was at BMP, John Webster asked me to hire a young team.
One art director I interviewed was Chinese and very posh.
I went through her portfolio and there was some nice work there, the most consistent work was a campaign for Stanley tools.
There were 7 ads all with the same headline: THE BEST TOOLS YOU CAN LAY HANDS ON.
They were very nice ads, beautifully shot by David Thorpe.
But it was all a bit posh, the shots were clean and spotless, the tools looked like they belonged in Harrods.
I said, “They’ve all got the same headline.”
She said (in a posh accent): “That’s right it’s a campaign.”
I said: “Nope: one headline per ad, that’s one ad with 7 different pictures.”
She said (in a posh accent): “Don’t be ridiculous, that’s a campaign of 7 different ads.”
I said: “Look, your visuals are very nice but if you want to work here I’ll need to train you, so we could only pay you half what you’re earning.”
She said (posh accent): “What nonsense, utter rubbish” and walked out.
The thing was, she’d been working with Paul Arden, a brilliant art director who naturally puts visuals before words.
But I was a copywriter, who naturally saw it the other way round (also the posh accent irritated me).
Anyway after she turned the job down, John Webster said he loved her work and called her up to ask her to come and work at BMP.
She said: “Absolutely not, if everyone there is like Dave Trott I wouldn’t go near it.”
So that was that, except I met her outside work and we got on much better.
In fact we’ve been married for over 40 years and we have two grown-up children.
Meanwhile she went on to work with (and win awards with) much nicer people, like David Abbott, Tony Brignul, Robin Wight, and Ron Collins.
See, the thing is, the brief for an art director and the brief for a wife are two different briefs.
I find that’s what a lot of people in the business don’t understand, you don’t have to be friends with the people you work with.
Friends and work are separate briefs.
As art directors, I’ve worked with Gordon Smith, John Webster, Derrick Hass, and Dave Christensen, and we never saw each other outside work.
The only exception was Mike Reynolds who was best man when Cathy and I got married, but that’s the exception that proves the rule.
The rule is, for me, don’t confuse your personal and professional life.
When you’re doing ads you want to be working with someone who’s going to help you do the best ads, you’re not looking for a mate, a pal, someone to go for a pint with.
In fact, the great part about not being friends is professional decisions don’t get messy.
Of course you shouldn’t hate each other either, but only because that also gets in the way.
Lots of the teams I hired hadn’t even met each other until we put them together.
Now ‘teams’ has become a convention, and people are put in pairs at art school and go everywhere joined together as if they were in a three-legged race.
At GGT, I used to love swapping art directors with different writers, the way a football manager would rotate the positions of his players.
One of the great combinations that came out of swapping people round was Dave Waters and Paul Grubb, who went on to open a very successful agency together.
I like to have two people who are each 100%, rather than a team made up of two people who are 50% each.
I prefer two individuals, that way one plus one equals three.