Scott Collin and Rebecca Mabie
Executive Creative Director and Group Creative Director, at Havit Advertising
How can creative teams survive current times?
After 10 years working together as a team, I think we have figured out the perfect working setup and scenario for creative teams to optimize the quality and quantity of the work they produce. Whenever possible, isolate yourself from one another. Do not be in the same room. If possible, avoid direct eye contact and be out of shouting distance. You should introduce fear of the unknown and misinformation to the situation. And do your best to work with clients who are increasingly distracted and having to shift meetings, projects and deliverable dates. You do that, and it’s gold Jerry. GOLD!
So there you have it. Covid-19 is the new norm. Not only in advertising; In everything. We’ve got more than a few years in this business and we’ve never experienced anything like this. Neither have you.
How are you changing the way you work together.
We’re not, really. Rebecca and I have worked together for a long time. We’ve worked with freelancers in other towns. Other states. A few times overseas. (Taking business calls at 4:00 am is always motivating.) We’ve used conference calls and facetime to facilitate collaboration. Or at least be able to use body language and gauge each other’s reactions to ideas. We’ve worked on different floors of an office. We’ve shared offices (we current share a small office, when we’re at the office, which creates its own drama … even when the world is healthy and happy). Years ago, Rebecca even went to the lengths of dropping off a creative brief and background information when I was in the hospital. Against her better judgement, but very much appreciated by me. Alas …
What can you tell us about how this might affect the creative process?
We can’t tell you anything you don’t know when it comes to the oddity of the times we’re living in. No one has the playbook. It’s all out improv for everyone.
But one thing we can share is how we keep it fresh for each other. How we keep our sanity, even when the hits just keep on coming. And how we’re able to ensure our work hits the mark, even under the worst circumstances.
We’ll start by saying, to each their own. We all march to our own beat. But we have adapted over the years to accommodate each other’s workstyle. Partially to improve the ideas we produce. And partially (Rebecca will say, No … Mostly …) to maintain our sanity. And (again, Rebecca would say…) Not kill each other. And by that I mean, Rebecca not killing me. These accommodations can be trying at times. But I think worth it, if only to not be killed by Rebecca. I’m guessing with an E-acto blade. It would be swift.
Look, I know I’m an acquired taste. I’m easily distracted. I run manic at times. I keep strange hours. I work in bursts. I have selective memory. I can be impulsive. If I had to guess, Rebecca is more productive now than usual. I’m not going to try and list Rebecca’s quirks because I know what’s good for me. But we both love what we do. And we have done great work together. Why would be continue working together if we didn’t? And what works is that we’ve both always known we have to remain flexible. We love creating things – tactics, experiences, whatever it may be. We both love to bring ideas to the table. We may do it in very different ways. But we do. And I think what’s most important is that we trust each other. Now more than ever, you have to trust the people you work with. Whether you’re a creative team, an account person overseeing a large team or the CEO who oversees everyone. You have to trust one another or just forget it.
I think it was early in our partnership that we realized we did trust one another and that’s why it works. When you present ideas, you’re laying it all out there in the raw. You’re open to criticism and doubt. And no matter how long you’ve been in this business – no matter how thick your skin – it still stings when something you love doesn’t get a right-swipe from everyone.
How do you stay on the same page?
Rebecca and I share some similarities and maintain many differences. And I think the differences are equally important – if not more so – in the process. We don’t always want to be on the same page. If you are, it gets boring. And the work can get formulaic. 10 years in and we continue to learn from one another. I love motorcycles. Rebecca won’t even sit on one. I’m heavily tattooed. Rebecca won’t even get a dot tattooed in an invisible space (I’ve tried to get her to do just that to no avail). I like nerdy documentaries and really dark humor. Rebecca leans toward more rewarding entertainment and adult entertainment (entertainment for mature adults, not porn. I don’t think anyway). Rebecca is super crafty. Given a glue gun, I’ll end up stuck to a kitchen table. Rebecca has a super stylish wardrobe. I have black shirts. Both short and long sleeve. She loves shoe shopping. I own shoes. I’m good.
BUT … even if it’s not our cup of tea, we enjoy listening to the other’s passions and stories about them. And this is critical to what we do, because more often than not we don’t share a lot in common with the audiences we are trying to communicate with. People don’t remember data and statistics. They remember stories. And how do you tell relevant stories with someone if you share nothing with them? Well, you learn about them. You mentally walk in their shoes.
You go beyond reading about a ‘persona,’ and start understanding the people that persona is meant to represent. It’s appreciating and understanding differences. And we do this through conversation while we’re concepting.
Are you having to change your process in any way?
Over the years, Rebecca and I have developed our own process. Once we get a brief, we don’t just jump directly into ideas (I do sometimes. But then I get a talking to.). We go left brain first. We make sure we have all the facts down. Objectives. Strategy. We want to understand the individuals that we want to engage with our communications, our stories … the client’s brand. Insights rule the day. And once we know and fully understand all the toys we can put in our right-brain sandbox, we do. And then we play.
And it’s a lot of back and forth. Angles. Thoughts. Rough ideas. All the while talking about the consumer. Not what we’re selling … what they’re buying. And all the while, things we love creep into the process. It could be something Rebecca saw at her daughter’s gymnastics competition. Or my daughter’s latest art project. Maybe something Rebecca noticed when she was shoe shopping – how consumers were acting, or style trends. Or something I saw on a recent motorcycle trip. We’re constantly sharing new binge-worthy shows for the other to check out. Even just funny or odd things we notice throughout the day. We try to always keep our eyes up and minds open. More than one concept has come from things we’ve observed ‘in the wild.’ And sometimes it’s a combination of things. Bits and pieces we each bring into the sandbox.
As far as individually … it used to be to stay fresh you were encouraged to read books, go to concerts, see movies, visit museums and always take note of people who look and behave differently than you, because that’s who you’re going to be selling to eventually. And all of those things hold true today. Unfortunately, we can’t do those things right now. Fortunately, we have access – nearly instant access – to so much online. The trick is to be careful just how often and how much you rely on your multiple screens for the answers. Nothing will ever take place of good old-fashioned conversation with intelligent and driven people. And we’re social distancing, not communication starving.
Sitting alone in a quiet room might not do much to bolster your nerves. But that calm and quiet can be great when you get on a roll. And look, you’re never more than a text, email, Snap, Instagram, Facebook post, call, facetime or Slack away. Just go easy on the Slack. I hate Slack.
So do you feel like the current situation won’t affect your work or working style at all?
Is it ideal that we’re working from home indefinitely? Having to rely on email, phone calls. Facetime. Video conference calls. Even Slack. (Full disclosure … I don’t like Slack). No. But I wouldn’t say it’s going to be detrimental. I could actually see it being beneficial to a point. It’s an unexpected curve in the road. We’ve faced more than a few of those together over the years and quite often, all they do is force us to think and work a little different. So long as we remain focused on our ultimate goal, we trust each other, and we don’t get too distracted … things work out. It always works out. Have you ever not made it to the finish line?
What about consumers in general?
I think that’s what will be most interesting. When we emerge from this, we are all going to have to rethink marketing and advertising. One, I think many people are going to rethink their priorities during this time. Maybe they won’t need the absolute latest phone immediately. Or another purse. I think the movement toward wanting more rewarding experiences over stuff is going to speed up. Also, people never really loved or trusted advertising. And with all the misinformation out there today, I have a very strong feeling that the strongest brands moving forward will be the most honest and altruistic. It wouldn’t hurt everyone in the world to get on that train.
Briefs always ask: What’s the single most important thing. So, same question.
Communication. If you don’t have the ability to communicate (or don’t invest the time and effort to do so) you’re going to fail. That goes for business in good times and bad. Left hand needs to know what the right hand is doing.
What are you doing?
Exactly what I told you
Well, tell me again
(A communication haiku)