Thursday, September 29, 2011

How to choose a partner.

        In his book "Working Together", Michael Eisner, the former head of Disney, makes this important point:

        Partnerships "are about learning to share, and how great sharing can be: sharing success and sharing failure, adrenaline and frustration, laughter and tears."About the partnerships he describes in his book, Eisner adds, "These are not all just successful people, they're also happy people...and they're among the select and very fortunate few who have found that partnerships create happiness."

        Creative work in advertising and marketing is all about partnerships. Ads and commercials are assigned to writers and art directors who work together as partners, to sink or swim together no matter who does what. In marketing, companies and vendors partner regularly. Even in companies that don't formally assign partners, people buddy-up on their own to come up with new ideas.

        Sometimes the best partners are opposites. They complement each other. Other times partners think alike, and mirror each other and validate their ideas. Still other times, partners are simply flung together for no apparent reason. It's difficult, but the tension can produce spectacular results if both partners unhesitatingly contribute and look for the good in the work of the other.

        Probably my most successful partnership is with Ross, the former creative director of Chiat/Day. We don't have all that much in common except our love for good advertising, the enjoyment of a good laugh, and an unyielding insistence on something never done before. Over the years, Ross and I got to understand each other so well that we could even work together over the phone to create commercials.

        I've had all kinds of art-director partners. Lucy always wanted me to go first; to get the ball rolling with some headlines or dialogue, and then for me to go away. I did, but the suspense always got to me, and I'd sneak back to see what wonderful thing she was doing. Some other partners didn't fight with me enough. There was no friction, they gave in to my unsharpened ideas.

        A few assigned partners of mine were too skeptical, too lazy, or too negative. Or they wanted recognition above all else, and certainly didn't value good concepts the way I do. Those were my loneliest days in this business.

        The good news is that the talented people in advertising and marketing generally  have enough confidence in themselves to be open and share, and understand that nothing's so precious that it can't be better.

         My advice is that if you find someone who can make you better than you are alone, make that person your partner immediately. And go for the gold.

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