Sine Marie Harwits and Melis Adigüzel’s childhoods couldn’t have been more different. Extraverted Melis was a born performer, singing and dancing, teaching younger kids how to draw and paint, growing in a Turkish family in Germany. Introverted Sine Marie, on the other hand, would while away hours with her Barbie doll, escaping to wild lives and fantastical adventures beyond the tiny and remote Danish village in which she lived.
Today those personality differences still hold true – Melis is a happy-go-lucky joker, who laughs that her moods wax and wane around the day’s food and coffee intake, Sine Marie likes to think and rethink her words and describes networking as ‘a waking nightmare’. And when the pair met in 2012, when they wound up in the same class at the Miami Ad School in Hamburg, those opposite energies sparked immediate and irresistible creative fission.
“[We] fell in love creatively and, with a couple of break-ups in between, we’ve been creating ads together for three years,” says Melis. “Our biggest strength is that we could not be more different: that’s our superpower, because our thinking starts from different perspectives. But in the end we make magic happen – like the female versions of Axl Rose and Slash. You can’t deny the resemblance – [I’m] very much looking forward to the next themed party!”
These days, the pair work together at Serviceplan Campaign & Content in Hamburg, where Sine Marie is a Senior Art Director and Melis is a Senior Copywriter. Sine’s route into the industry was an unusual one – leaving home at 17 she started an apprenticeship as a graphic designer in Copenhagen before coming across the advertising industry. That training and craft has served her well, and now she has exacting standards when it comes to the precision of the work and originality of the ideas the pair create.
“I think when it comes to graphic design, ads and concepts we are bombarded with impressions daily, even when we aren’t aware,” she says. “My job is to be aware, see patterns and new trends evolving. So just keeping an open eye and ear, and not stick to “this is how it’s always been”.”
For Melis, she always had her eyes on adland, and before ad school she studied Communication Design at the University of Applied Sciences in Düsseldorf. She originally had planned on becoming an art director, but fate had other ideas.
“My friend who was working at GREY in Düsseldorf at that time told me about a German-Turkish mobile phone provider client. They needed a creative who understands the target group, writes in German, Turkish AND is able to communicate in English with one of the creative directors. Sounded like a dream come true, I fulfilled all the expectations, except: I never had any experience in copywriting before!” laughs Melis. “It was a crazy risk to take from the agency side, but my friend vouched for me and I had to deliver. And that folks is how I became a copywriter…”
In fact that project was also a key experience for Melis when it came to appreciating her own bi-cultural background– and the adaptability and fluidity gained by growing up bilingual. “Almost three million people of Turkish descent live in Germany – and I’m one of them. That’s why this project was very important for me personally,” she reflects. “We used a very simple, but powerful truth: German-Turks throw in Turkish words in the middle of German sentences - and vice versa - while talking to each other. So basically, we can only be understood, if you speak both languages. We used this exclusivity and created a manifesto to transport one important feeling: pride. A feeling of being understood and most importantly being SEEN. Long story short: our client became the no. 1 mobile phone provider for German-Turks. And my personal highlight: a little girl I randomly met at a wedding, recited the whole voiceover I wrote – by heart. Honestly, the shiniest award in advertising wouldn’t have made me happier at that time.”
Sine too has been on a journey throughout her time in the advertising industry. Living a rich internal life and honing her art directing skills on a diet of clean Scandi aesthetics and whipped into shape by an uncompromisingly precise old school designers. The problem solving and puzzling out a solution to a brief is where the thoughtful art director is happiest – it’s the rough and tumble of bashing ideas about is s something that she’s had to build up to.
“When we crack a brief and everything feels so clear and obvious, it feels like riding an endless wave – said without ever stepping foot on a surfboard,” says Sine. But where problem solving takes her to that psychological state of creative flow, opening up requires trust. “Brainstorming is for me a very intimate process, you need to be open, honest and vulnerable to reach a good result, therefore brainstorming with somebody I don’t feel “safe” with is hard.”
But even gregarious Melis has had to learn the power of collaboration. “Team work is crucial. Sharing and talking to each other is so much more productive than brooding all by yourself,” she says of the most useful lesson she learned in her early days. “And: credits are not cake. It doesn’t mean you get less of the cake the more people you involve in a credit list for a project.”
Something else the pair share in common is the belief that the ad industry generally and particularly in Germany, needs to get better at reflecting society.
“I think we need to be better in mirroring society,’” says Sine. “We need more female CDs, we need more women in management, we need more people from different backgrounds. Nobody wants to give up power voluntarily, but some need to give in order to make room for change. “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Melis notes that the conversation around sexism has been slow to take root in the German industry and she feels saddened that it’s only now getting any traction, a full two years after Me Too and Diet Madison Avenue.
“Female creative directors are still so rare in our industry. It’s crucial to have a “female eye” on every project, even if the target group is mostly male for that certain client. Bringing diverse perspectives into the game is what we have to do as creatives. Just like guys should definitely work on tampon ads, too,” explains Melis.
More broadly, she feels that clients in Germany can be staid and scared to take a stand. Sine agrees, suggesting that the advertising in the market needs to be more honest and reflect real life, rather than falsely perfect depictions of family life.
That perfection and control, though, has had to give way to the pressures of Covid, and it looks like it’s having a deeper impact on the local market.
“Due to the Coronavirus crisis you can feel the wind of change,” says Melis. “I mean, transformation was always the living heart of media and advertising. But right here, right now, it feels like someone pushed the fast-forward-button. And it’s thrilling to see new concepts and ideas growing because of the pandemic.
Unsurprisingly, the pair differed in their initial response to the Covid-19 work from home directives – though now they’re meeting in the middle.
“I think everybody learned that home office doesn’t mean “I’m not gonna work today” – before, home office was shady, people assumed being home meant a day off. Now I feel like everybody has proven that we don’t need to be locked to a desk in order to work,” says Sine. “I think it’s an important trust to give to people that you’re still capable of working when given freedom. I enjoy coming back to work now, but I also enjoy days where I don’t need to make myself ready and can work in my PJs.”
Meanwhile, for Melis the solitude became almost too much of a distraction. “Working from home was never really my thing since I get easily distracted if I don’t have a “working environment”. Now, after we’re partly allowed to come back to the office it’s a completely different story: My time management got better and I have a healthier work-life balance. Things like throwing in a load of laundry in between meetings or doing groceries at lunch time is gold sometimes!”
And when it comes to life outside of the agency, Melis and Sine also have differing passions and sources of creative inspiration – and it’s here that the narrative of quiet thoughtful Sine and bombastic Melis is utterly disrupted. Melis loves crafting and has been developing a particularly solitary and fiddly sideline in jewellery making.
“Wordsmith by day, silversmith by night,” she says, explaining that she started classes right before COvid-19 hit. “It’s great to craft something from scratch. It teaches me patience, precision and gives me so much joy when I can wear my own produce.”
Although Sine still loves the peaceful headspace that comes from taking long walks or growing her own fruit and vegetables, she’s also got an adventurous side. “Year 2019 was an insane year on bone breaking, starting out with my sternum, from doing the most “addy” thing ever – jumping from a cliff. Then four months later breaking my elbow, from standing on a balance board and Christmas morning breaking my tailbone from slipping on stairs. Thought 2020 can’t get worse, but here we are…”
To be fair to Sine, jumping from a cliff is pretty rock ‘n’ roll, which fits nicely with Melis’s Guns N’ Roses analogy. And as the world slowly drags itself from the trauma of Covid and lockdown, the pair are ready to rock out and shake up the German creative scene.