L to R: Copywriter and author Max Mager and creative partners Clay Harris (Copywriter) and Shenice Brotherson (Art Director) interning at BBDO Atlanta.

A good creative partner is like a good spouse—you need to be compatible, and it’s best if you actually like each other. Copywriting student Max Mager gives us his take on partnerships, from the writer’s point of view.

As a copywriter, I feel most at home in my concepts and ideas. I have worked with many art directors in the past and all of them have been unique. Every creative partner had their own way of thinking. Some pushed me to think outside my comfort zone. Some pushed me to be a better creative. Some pushed me out of a second-story window.

My most challenging creative partner was outside of school. With this specific art director, I felt like we were so different that every time either of us had an idea, we had to spend hours and hours just to get to an understanding. When we did end up getting somewhere, that location was always short lived. I learned the invaluable virtue of patience and determination through that experience, a skill that every creative partner should have, no matter the discipline.

Currently, I’m doing most of my work with an art director named Mark. I think the best part about our partnership is that both our names start with “Ma.” This similarity somehow makes the entire creative process much easier. Mark operates on a creative wavelength that is extremely similar to mine. In fact, there have been times when we have finished each other’s sentences. When this happens, we laugh and then high-five vigorously. I think we vibe well mostly because neither of us cares about “the spotlight.” We’d rather see our idea grow over our ego, and we are never hurt if another idea comes along to replace our previous front runner.

L to R: Claire Manganiello (art director) and Emily Sheehan (copywriter). Claire and Emily met at Miami Ad School New York and have been working together for five years, first at The Barbarian Group and now at Mother (both in NYC). Read more about their partnership here.

“We met in school, and we’ve been working together for five years, or roughly 1,877 days.
But who’s counting?”
— Claire Manganiello and Emily Sheehan; Mother, New York

My best advice is to find a creative partner that feels like your best friend. I know a lot of people may say something different like, “Challenge yourself with people that are different from you.” I think, initially, this approach is correct. Working with someone with a different thought process than you can be invaluable in learning who you are as a creative and how you think. Once you find that out; however, it’s good to work with a creative partner who has a similar process. By “similar” I don’t mean someone who agrees with everything you say. You know, like your Dad, or your Britney Spears poster.

The best way to describe the ideal art director/copywriter relationship is like that of a pilot and co-pilot. There will be times when you get a brief, and as a copywriter, something about the challenge speaks to you. Almost as if you can fly with your eyes closed, and that’s perfect. If you have a good creative partner, they’ll co-pilot, pick up after you and tell you when you’re getting too close to the mountains. Above all, they’ll keep you focused on the mission at hand. But, for every time like that, there will be a day when your partner gets a vision like Sandra Bullock in Premonition. When that happens, suit up, buckle your seatbelts and enjoy the ride.

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