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Dream Teams: The Unholy Alliance of Sam Collins and Ivan Stanojevic

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The creative team at The&Partnership tell LBB’s Alex Reeves about their least grandmother-friendly ideas, why Lily Allen is “one of the best copywriters around” and how their relationship has a Sex & the City flavour to it

Dream Teams: The Unholy Alliance of Sam Collins and Ivan Stanojevic

Sam Collins and Ivan Stanojevic met at church. More specifically in the basement of one – at SCA 2.0 in 2019. “Though neither of us are devout followers of organised religion, here we formed a union of the unholiest matrimony and jointly partook in the immaculate conception of a truly ungodly student book,” says Sam.

Preferring a good story to the truth, Ivan imagines a more evocative encounter: “I was a humble but lowly church basement sweep, when Sam walked over the hallowed threshold and suggested I should work in advertising with him instead. I had nothing to lose but my old broom, so I said why not.”
 
Sam wasn’t in a good way when they met. “He was hunched over and could barely move,” says Ivan. “He’d put his back out playing football. He reminded me of a grumpy, yet loveable old man. Once I got to know him I realised my first impression was entirely accurate.“ On the subject of first impressions, Sam wasn’t bowled over either, to be honest: “Ivan is quite bad at impressions and to be honest I found his one of me pretty offensive.”

While these days they work as a creative team at The&Partnership in London, the first project the pair worked on was a spec campaign for the alcopop WKD, which Sam describes as “nihilistic” and “foul-mouthed”, featuring “the greatest hits from gen z’s obsession with destruction and decay and the so-called Bathbomb Manifesto as inspo.  I showed my grandmother. She was so appalled, I knew things were going to work out just fine.” Their favourite line: “Arrest my ex for necrophilia, because I’m dead inside. IT’S A WKD WORLD.”

The pair’s bizarre sense of humour meant working together came naturally. They enjoy putting their ideas through the wringer together to make sure they’re hitting as hard as they can. “Sam throws ideas at me and I assume the role of Meryl Streep from The Devil Wears Prada, savagely slaying suggestions I disapprove of,” says Ivan.
 
Why do they think they complement each other? “Because we’re both fabulous and deserve all of the compliments,” answers Sam. Ivan jumps in, “Because at least one of us can actually answer a question like a normal person. 

“Me, I bring the Britney Spears trivia and pop culture refs. Sam loves this game called football – I still don’t quite understand it, but it seems boring.”

Healthy disagreement runs deep through Sam and Ivan’s relationship, from music to politics, from art to the relative merits of sushi as a foodstuff.  “What we do both agree on though, is what great work looks like and the desire to make that kind of work ourselves; it’s the adhesive that keeps us heading in the same direction,” says Sam.
 
Ivan says Sam loves to “slip into the suit of devil’s advocate”, while he’s more comfortable as “the blue-haired liberal”.  And when they do bump heads, there's always a level of respect and open-mindedness in these talks that ultimately strengthen their partnership. 
 
The creative duo paint a vivid picture of what it looks like when they fall out. Sam says they always resolve it, “with brazen physical aggression. If we disagree, we brawl.  Should the brawl end in a draw – it’s pistols at dawn.” 

Meanwhile, Ivan admits he’s volatile. “I never keep emotion out of it. As soon as we disagree I collapse to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably and striking the floor with my fists. I keep yelling until Sam admits I was right all along.“
 
That unharmonious scene might not be totally correct all the time though, because they do get some brilliant work done for their clients. And often it reflects their playful characters perfectly. “We’ve never been as proud as we were at the birth of our first son: Squishy Fish – the fish who simply must be squished,” says Sam. “Making work for Skittles was a real honour and it won C*mpaign’s Ad of the Day, which made us feel warm and loved.” 


The ‘Squishy Cloudz’ campaign for Skittles was a dream come true for the team, agrees Ivan, but creating work that pivoted the entire global strategy for Mars Wrigley’s Extra Gum, with the ‘Every Smile Should Shine’ campaign – within just the first couple of months of their first ever placement – was also, as he puts it, “unrealio”.  

Every project has its own unique challenges. Sam notes that clients are demanding more and more for less and less. “That means we have to be all of those words used ad infinitum by ad agencies and David Attenborough: agile, lean and resourceful. Gosh, caring is exhausting.”
 
One specific challenge the pair recently faced was switching from stills to stop motion mid-shoot. Ivan admits, “I almost had a heart attack but we managed to reset the studio and create some really beautiful assets. Proud.”

Creative teams both new and less new, at all levels of seniority inspire Sam. Standouts include, “power couple of the century and all-round lovely people Trevor and Rania at Quiet Storm, who showed us that the greatest work can be made by the nicest people.  The superb Tom and Chris at Uncommon also massively inspire us. We’re also so appreciative of all the advice we had from Sophie and James at Mother, who kept challenging us while we were at school — to push more and then some more again.  Ruby Norman Curran is my advertising mom. And I love her. Outside advertising, Pete & Bas, Harry Kane & Heung Min Son and Rick & Morty.”

Ivan’s vibe is slightly different, but offsets Sam’s perfectly: “My life inspiration will forever be Britney Spears for her strength, perseverance and ability to stay true to herself despite all the obstacles put in front of her. My copywriting inspiration is Lily Allen, who I consider to be one of the best copywriters around. In adland, Ruby Norman Curran is our all time fave witchy-advertising-mentor.”
 
They inspire each other on a daily basis, of course. “Having a creative twin so we can re-enact pranks from The Parent Trap,” is something Ivan’s grateful for. “It’s like being in a couple, except with less sex and more fights.

Sam appreciates always having “a brain to pick, a shoulder to cry on and a constant supply of outrageous outfits.”

These creative partners deeply admire one another, but give each other a healthy amount of space. “We spend between eight and ten hours a day together already,” says Sam. “You’ll forgive us for wanting some time apart.”
 
Ivan’s comparison is evocative: “We’re kind of like the girls from Sex & the City. At work, we’re obsessed with each other. But if we were to run into each other on the street, we’d look at our phones, or cross the road and pretend we haven’t seen each other.”

As a creative team, they have an undeniable tendency to be flippant and playful, but they don’t joke about the lessons they’ve learned from each other. “Ivan taught me how important it is to think for yourself and strive for originality,” says Sam. “Sam taught me how important it is to think for yourself and strive for originality,” says Ivan. Wait… Oh, OK.


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The&Partnership, Mon, 08 Aug 2022 14:54:31 GMT