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Write What You Know: The Creative Union

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Whilst on his honeymoon, Snap London's creative director Liam Wilson shares his love for his work wife Matt Hynds

Write What You Know: The Creative Union

Liam Wilson is often described as visionary-impaired. By his own mother who skips all of his ads. 

He is currently a creative director at Snap London. He used the word ‘currently’ there to spook his boss into thinking he has itchy feet in the hope of gaining a pay rise.

In his WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW series, Liam types random musings from his life under the guise of advertising advice. He also writes this bit in third person inspired by his favourite creative team, Gollum & Sméagol. 

 

Earlier this month I got married.

I know, I know. But you’re too late I’m afraid. 

The photo that accompanies this article is me doing my speech at said wedding.

I had been planning on reading a selection of genius scripts that were rejected by clients, but apparently that “wasn’t appropriate for a wedding”, “would reduce everyone to tears” and the “fastest way for a nan to boo her own grandson”. My wife is a harsh ECD. 

By the time this article gets published, I will be on my honeymoon. 

Or in a Mexican prison. Depends what their rules are on wearing budgie smugglers at the beach. To be fair, I am blessed to have the physique of Christian Bale. Sadly for other holidaymakers, not from Batman but the one where he plays vice president Dick Cheney. 

But before you rush to congratulate me and my new wife on our nuptials, I have a confession to make:

Breathe, Liam. Just breathe.

Inhale, exhale. Everything will be fine.

During our time together there has been another leggy blonde in my life.

There, I said it. 

The whole time I’ve been seeing someone else.

God that’s a relief to finally admit.

It’s been going on for about ten years.

Yes, we shared a bed together.

I’m not proud of that.

At times it was a passionate affair.

And we saw each other pretty much every day, while our respective fiancées went to work.

In fact, we saw the world together.

Dirty weekends away. 

Always filmed by a professional crew.

Sydney. Melbourne. L.A. Miami. Paris. 

The bright lights and roundabouts of Peterborough.

We saw it all.

And the sickening thing is, people know this person as my ‘partner’.

They’ve seen us together at work events.

They’ve seen us laughing over layout pads.

Giggling alone in meeting rooms. 

That’s how long the deceit has been going on for.

I am, of course, talking about my work wife Matt Hynds.

I have worked with Matt (or Liam, if you’re an account person at VCCP) since uni.

That’s 10 years. 

A decade. 

Countless pre-pre-pre-pre meetings before the pre-pre-pre prod. 

It is a strange phenomenon to work in a creative team; day in, day out. 

You lose any self-autonomy or identity.

You are branded as a pair.

I can’t really think of any jobs where two people spend an entire career in tandem. 80s Cop duos? Synchronised divers maybe. I mean, even porn stars mix it up a little. 

Sometimes you don’t even get your own name when you’re a creative- you’re referred to as “the placement team”. Or “the lads”. 

Apparently I look like a Matt. And he looks like a Liam. Matt definitely does not look like Liam though. 

Matt and I did an advertising course at University. But it wasn’t a creative one.

95% of people on the course become media planners, buyers, account people or planners.

There used to be account directors from (now defunct) agencies come and do guest lectures.

“Anyone can have an idea in an agency” they used to proclaim. They made out that it was like the crap Hollywood films that depict ad agencies where anybody sat on a bean bag could come up with a Nike campaign. 

Nobody ever mentioned creative departments. Or creative teams. Or portfolios. Or placement years getting paid fuck all to work on pitches at weekends.

So we naively thought people would be impressed by our strategic background, and then we’d just waltz into an ad agency and say “Hey, let’s make a media plan and then spitball some script ideas on a flip chart, guys!”

Matt had plans to go and work for Paypal in marketing or something terribly boring. 

I was putting the finishing touches to an application to be an account exec at AMV.

When suddenly Matt called me and said “I know how to get a job at BBH actually making the ads. But apparently we need a portfolio and need to be a duo”.

He was to become the copywriter to my copywriter.

Anyone who has seen our scamps knows we didn’t go to Central St Martins.

We agreed we would try and blag it and see how long we could get away with neither of us really being an art director. 

Probably a terrible idea with (Matt) Hyndsight. 

But definitely a better idea than being an account man and single-handedly bankrupting Abbott Mead Vickers. 

Our first interview was with a creative director in Canary Wharf. 

Matt decided to turn up in a suit, based on advice a cabbie had given him.

“I’ve never seen a half copywriter - half accountant creative team before” the CD remarked.

We spent our first year running around London looking like Delboy and Rodney, armed with an A3 leather portfolio.

“This time next year Rodders, we’ll be mixed media integrated creatives!”.

We secured our first placement while still at uni.

The book crit was with Sean Doyle and Walter Campbell.

Only the art director of the Guinness Surfer ad. And the writer of the economist posters. No biggie.

We didn’t have a fucking clue what we were doing.

Still don’t.

We winged it.

Still are.

The reason we managed to blag it was because our thinking wasn’t like the rest of the teams doing the circuit at the same time as us. 

The bit that kept us together for so long is we have the same sense of humour.

And neither of us really care for all the advertising wankery. The very notion of writing an article for an advertising website would have made both us projectile vomit a few years ago. 

We were two inbetweeners from similar towns who hadn’t had sushi until working on a pitch, the only wines we knew were called House from the Top-of-the-menû Region, and we were more familiar with residing in Lenny Henry’s Purple Palace than Chateau Marmont. 

Over the years working together, we developed our own little language.

We’d try to get the most obscure references from one of our own ads into conversation while in boring meetings, simply to make the other one laugh. The most in of in-jokes.

Or we’d stitch the other one up by changing lines of dialogue minutes before the other read a script in a review.

We played endless pranks on each other. The finest was when Matt managed to convince an entire agency that I drink a pint of milk every day at 3.15pm. He started off by bringing me a glass every afternoon, on the dot. Obviously I was bemused and ignored his silly antics. Until one day, I decided to down the pint, eyes closed, glugging down the white stuff - just to show him I was unbothered. Unbeknownst to me, he’d already told everyone I drink milk at exactly 3:15pm. And everyone saw me down that pint at exactly 3:15pm. Rumours circulated. Lactating Liam aka The milkman. A young grad timidly came up to me and nervously asked me if I was Liam and could he use my milk. “What are you talking about mate? My milk? It’s for the whole office. I don’t own the milk”.

He then sheepishly walked me over to the communal fridge to point at a post-it on a bottle of semi-skimmed declaring LIAM’S MILK. DO NOT TOUCH. 

We even had our own motto. 

To dare definitely.

Ahem. No.

It was Eat the lobster, drink the whisky.

This phrase we used when it was clear the client was clueless and we’d never get anything out of it. Rather than get worn down by our creativity being eroded, eating the lobster was the mantra to try and eak some good out of the project. Which normally meant, make the most of the free food and be thankful we don’t work in a factory. 

Matt is absolutely woeful at small talk though.

So for years he would say absolutely nothing, because he found comfort in the awkwardness that hung in a room with a client.

Which would force me to start speaking and rambling and waffling. 

A clever tactic because he could then spend the whole meeting thinking of one decisive, insightful thing to say.

And everyone leaves the room thinking he’s the intelligent one, while I just sound like I’ve done a kilogram of coke.

Matt is also 6’5” and hench. 

And I’m…well, I’m not.

Matt files everything away meticulously, dated complete with project name. 

I have folders on my desktop named ‘Knobheads’ and ‘Kill me’. 

Matt gets up at 5am to go to the gym. He writes scripts before breakfast with a protein shake. 

I hit snooze 17 times at 8.03am. I write scripts at midnight with a glass of milk. 

That’s the thing with teams. No two are the same. Even the people within the partnership are different. Sure, most of them seem to be white, male and have very exotic names like Chris and Dave. But that’s an article for another day. 

Some duos are in each other’s pocket. Living together. Hanging out at the weekend. Holidaying together.

Then you get the teams where you get the distinct feeling they hate each other.

There are those that very nearly end up boshing each other while bashing ideas around. 

There are those that nosh with each other. Preferring to digest a brief over dinner. 

And there are some cases where they actually nosh each other, not only working together but working under each other. 

I’ve seen junior teams over the years throw each other under the bus. They very rarely last. 

Because over the years, you develop a rhythm as a team. 

You disagree when you’re alone together, choosing what to show. What is shit, and what is Liam’s.

But when you get in that room, you back each other up in the review and put on a united front.

A large percentage of your job is defending your work, so you need someone giving you covering fire when your back is against the wall, surrounded by account team tweakery. 

You even get to the point where you have telepathic communications, just one look across the room that says: “this brief is shit”.

And you know exactly what the other is going to laugh at without anything needing to be said. 

I’m using a lot of past tense. 

I should add, Matt’s not dead.

It’s worse than that. 

The philandering bastard decided to leave me.

All those years, and for what? A mediocre to middling portfolio. 

I worked with Matt Hynds and all I got was this lousy four stars on David Reviews. 

To be honest, I’m knackered.

I have carried him long enough.

I have the scars from three back operations to prove it.

Besides, I much prefer having sex with my new wife than him anyway.

He was a careless and selfish lover.

Again, I have three back operations to prove it.

There are times when being in a team is horrible. God knows I’ve cursed his name when he’s naffed off on holiday and his handover consists of a pack of work and a solitary post-it note saying “9.30am Creative Review. Good luck. You’ll need it”. 

But it also makes you feel bulletproof.

It’s the two of you against all the other bastard teams. 

I will miss that.

I’m going to get the new Mrs Wilson to be my art director.

She already shows absolutely no interest in my ideas, so she’s a seamless replacement. 

Myself and Matt are currently working through the divorce settlement. We’re going to share custody of a vimeo account. I get to see his ideas at the weekend. No doubt we will see each other at the school gates, before competing on the same pitch. 

Do I wish him all the best and want to see him thrive and his career flourish? Yes. A thousand times yes.

Is there a part of me that wants to see his career implode in flames and have him come crawling back saying “you were right, Liam. You were the wind beneath my wings and the brains behind our creative output”? Also yes. 

He has been a wonderful secretary though. He is naffing off to be a creative director somewhere else. Peggy is leaving Don. And the organisation of my desktop files will suffer greatly without her. 

If you’re an account person, just remember a creative team relies on the finished ad being as best as it can be. We don’t have CVs. We have portfolios. 

We can’t just say we were at X agency and we worked on Y and got a job.

We have to show the ads that were made. 

And if you’re a junior team reading this, remember to have each others’ backs when in that creative review. As the vicar reading from Ecclesiastes Chapter 4: 9-12 at my wedding said: 

Two are better than one,

because they have a good return for their labour:

10 

If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.

But pity anyone who falls

and has no one to help them up.

11 

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.

But how can one keep warm alone?

12 

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.

I should add the vicar then went on to say me and my wife were about to embark on a threesome with God, so maybe take all that advice with a pinch of salt. Not a chance I’m having a ménage à trois with the big man upstairs. If he can supposedly create heaven and earth in seven days, I’m fairly certain he would ensure he’s well-endowed too. 

Wonder what the job number is for producing all the celestial bodies of the universe? Matt would have that timesheet code saved down somewhere for me. 

So good luck, Matt. You’ll need it. 

I’ll raise a glass of milk for you. 

This article is a paid for promotion for the Dairy Industry. Enter code LACTATE20 for 20% off semi-skimmed. 

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Snap London, Thu, 21 Apr 2022 09:20:00 GMT