According to Jemma Burgess, the British half of The G/Jems dream team, the meet cute between her and Gemina Gil Flores (the French half of the same) wasn’t what we would expect. However, it is still quite sweet - three years ago, back in ad school, the two got paired together by their head teacher, who ‘forced’ them to work in a team for the simple reason that they carry the same name. “Apparently it’s good branding,” said Jemma, reminiscing on their teacher’s reasoning behind putting them together.
Three years down the line and still going strong together, The G/Jems work at TBWA\London, where they make non-traditional campaigns that come to life through unexpected media, such as pairs of knickers, pirate radio stations, and fake Twitter accounts. Their commitment to crafting unusual work has so far won them a handful of prizes, such as D&AD New Blood, a Cream for ‘Best New Creative Team’ and most recently, Twitter’s #PoweredByTweets Awards and Creative Circle Awards.
Upon first being paired together, Jemma remembers being quite intimidated by the fact that Gem really “knew her shit”. Jemma says, “She was cool, stylish, classy, and talented. But then I got to know her and realised she’s extremely weird, but also incredibly kind and funny.” Gemina simply remembers thinking “Jemma’s really hot.” and that never changed.
After they got the ball rolling at school, the two were pretty much working together on a new project every day, hence why they couldn’t possibly remember the very first one. They both admit it took some time to adapt and learn how to work seamlessly together, but they found a way to bridge their cultural differences. “Coming from France, I’m more straightforward. I remember telling Jemma that one of her ideas was boring and she really took it personally,” explains Gem. “Now she’s the one telling me when my ideas are shit and I love it.”
According to Jemma, there’s another detail that helped them shatter the Franco-British divide - “Gem’s French and I’m dyslexic. That means we both complement each other in the fact that we don’t know what we’re saying sometimes!” The G/Jems are defined by their oppositions, and they are exactly what also balances them out. And, regardless of differences, they share what matters - ‘humour, ambition and greatness’. Gemina says they believe nothing can stop them, which means “that we really support and raise each other up.” She continues, “Sometimes our dynamic is a bit of good cop and bad cop, with me jumping to the point, whereas Jemma is a little more…delicate.”
These cultural and personal differences are at the root of some frustrations the duo has, however those can quickly be turned into pros for their development as a team. For example, Jemma tends to protect her personal space a lot more, while Gem’s foot is always on the pedal, which can lead to some annoyance, but also teaches Gem how to slow down. “Gem will remind me of things we have to do ten million times,” says Jemma. “At the most annoying time, when I’m deep in focus. But this has meant that I’ve never missed a deadline, I’ve never fallen behind and somehow, made it look like I’ve got my shit together.”
Beyond the day-to-day quarrels, The G/Jems fundamentally agree on what is actually paramount for their work. “We have the same vision for what we want our work to look like and for where we want our career to go,” explains Gem. “I think this is the secret to a long-lasting creative relationship. Daily, we would of course disagree on things, but we ultimately trust each other’s opinions, so we listen and always find a way to agree.” And that way, according to Jemma, is found with the help of empathy and humour. “At the end of the day, we both want to produce the best work, so if we disagree, we get rid of our egos and compromise,” she says.
Their ‘best work’ list is definitely extensive and expanding as we speak, but the one project that sticks out for both of them is the #FollowedByCancer campaign, that they made as a result of winning Twitter’s #PoweredByTweets. The campaign included creating four mysterious Twitter accounts named after the main symptoms of ovarian cancer, under the names of '@INeedAWeeAgain', '@MyTummyHurts', '@BloatedBelly’ and '@FeelFullQuickly'. On World Ovarian Cancer Day 2022, it was revealed that those accounts had all been #FollowedByCancer, and just as the accounts were ignored on the platform, the message was to never ignore the symptoms in real life.
“I think after making this, it became very obvious what kind of work we want to be making,” says Gem. “We aren’t for the traditional media spaces, but rather in love with exploring more unusual and unexpected places and ways to reach people.”
A recent challenging project they faced, however, during which the duo’s commitment to diversity and inclusion was put at risk just before the campaign launch, “because of client fears.” Gem explains that the outcome of neglecting D&I would seriously harm their integrity and beliefs. “We took a breath and managed to keep emotions out of it - it ended up all good in the end, teaching us how to fight what’s important for us,” she continues. “Jemma is now our agency’s DI&B coordinator and I couldn’t be more proud of her for this.”
Besides this, budgets, as for many creatives, can also prove tricky for The G/Jems. “On a project recently we had zero budget for production, so we had to source our own actor, studio, photographer and lighting,” says Jemma. “We overcame it by being passionate about it - when you’re passionate, it’s infectious and people will always try to help you out.” But that’s why, according to Gem, it’s best to be part of a creative duo in the industry - because “you’re less scared when you go ask for more money!”
For Jemma, however, the list of benefits is much more extensive. “It’s like having an extra brain,” she says. “A best friend, an emotional blanket, an agony aunt, a different perspective, a stylist, someone to talk to, laugh with, celebrate, or cry with. If it all goes tits up, then you’ve got someone to support you and if you knock it out of the park you have someone there to drink with too.”
Gem and Jemma spend every waking moment together - seven hours a day, five days a week. According to Jemma, Gem’s the first person she wanted to come to her sister’s wedding and the most frequent phone call and text on her phone. Although they know they’re best friends, they tend to try to not spend their weekends and free time together, so they can take a much needed break. Regardless of that, their constantly evolving relationship is what has taught them so much about the industry and the importance of passionate work.
“Because of Jemma I know how to be a better listener and to be more compassionate,” shares Gem. On the flip side, Jema learned how to see beauty in everything because of her creative other half. “The more we’ve worked together the more I appreciate the beauty in everything. She taught me how to believe in myself, how to be relentless and how God is always in the details. However, still to this day, I have not learnt any French.” And although Gem already knows English, the best thing about the language that Jemma taught her is “how to pronounce the word ‘deck’, so it doesn’t sound like some other word.”