When we becomes me: Mcgarrybowen’s Angus Macadam on leaving a creative partnership
Paul Jordan recently left his post as joint executive creative director of Mcgarrybowen London to become ECD at WCRS. His former partner, Angus Macadam, now sole ECD at the Dentsu shop, reflects on life as a creative divorcee.
I’ve recently parted ways with my creative partner Paul Jordan, after 20 years. It was a conscious uncoupling. And it’s been emotional.
We teamed up in the summer of 1998. I remember it well because we were working in our kitchens, assembling a portfolio of ideas, half-watching the World Cup on TV (which France won).
Macadam (right) with Jordan
We found our first job together and across two decades we’ve made some work, moved agencies a few times, became creative directors and for the last seven years we’ve been executive creative directors.
We probably learned most in our career working for four years under another ECD team, Tony [Davidson] and Kim [Papworth] at Wieden + Kennedy. There was real magic in the room when they were together. You could literally watch the team dynamics in action.
Back then, being in an advertising agency was infinitely more fun. It was simpler, too. Today, creatives are expected to not just understand every medium, but to also know how each can super-charge the other. That’s not easy to do. But the better people put themselves in uncomfortable spots, to learn the hard stuff. And it’s so much easier to do that with a partner you trust.
As a team you fire each other up, big each other up and, most importantly, shut each other up. A team edits each other’s nonsense before it gets to other people. A team settles into a routine. Finishes each other’s sentences. A team has little jokes that you both know work with certain people - clients, producers, planners.
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You grow close. During big meetings, we used coded words that only we knew about, that allowed us to secretly communicate on the hoof (a neat trick my mum taught me and my two sisters when we were small).
The day to day reality of an ECD team can be much the same as any creative team. Like some sort of overpaid pantomime horse, you take it in turns to be the brains or the arsehole. And it’s only you, on the inside, who knows which end you’re at.
But all teams come to the end. It’s sad, but you sort of know it’s coming. In truth, Paul and I had already worked separately for a couple of years.
Being officially on my own has given me some fresh objectivity. Having a sole ECD makes things simpler for everyone around them. Decisions are faster, direction is clearer, and everyone knows who is who and what is what. Being joint-ECDs makes it harder to lead with a defined, singular vision.
Now that it’s just me, that’s what I intend to do. Impose my ideas and see what happens.
While all this has been going on, Mcgarrybowen launched an exhibition at Heal’s showcasing the creative process and working spaces of female designers. Seeing all these great creatives doing it their way made me think about my own creative process and how being alone will change things.
The old cliché is that a creative partnership is like a marriage. I agree. I’m now a creative divorcee. In our case we had 20 wonderful years. But like any marriage that lasts that long, you’re probably an incy-wincy bit sick of each other. And the idea of living alone has a certain appeal.
I gave Paul a leaving speech in which I mentioned our ‘marriage’, built on 20 years commitment, trust and love. I made jokes about WCRS breaking up that marriage – the dirty little tart who took my man.
And so, our partnership ended as it began, in the Summer of 2018, during another World Cup, again won by France. My leaving gift to Paul was a couple of framed France shirts. I figured, at the end of a good match, the correct thing to do is swap shirts.
And that was it; the pantomime horse was disbanded.
We became me.
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