Wed, 12 Oct 2022 16:33:00 GMT
Isabel Kerr and Bailey Grandis - known by the portmanteau ‘IsaBail’ - are creatives at the full-service agency Yebo, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. A copywriter and art director respectively, they both hail from Leesburg - a small and not particularly creative Virginian town where, surprisingly, they never bumped into each other, despite being just a year apart at rival high schools and having mutual friends.
Finally crossing paths at Yebo, the pair were attracted to the woman-owned agency with “strong female team members” and leadership, including CEO Robyn Zacharias. “It definitely influenced me,” says Bailey. “In 2018, I was a fresh grad and I’d heard how advertising is a boy’s club, but it’s starting to change. I saw the change in Yebo, and it sounded like a place I wanted to be at.” After being paired for a ‘blind date’ and clicking immediately, the pair have now worked together for around 16 months - influenced by, as Isabel says,the “very welcoming, accepting, and vulnerable work environment” that Yebo cultivates.
Of her partner, Bailey says, “I had a feeling that we could work on just about anything together. She seemed like an introvert that could easily lead a room. That hasn’t changed. She continues to prove that theory right every time we present work or are in the booth. There isn't a challenge we couldn't tackle together.”
Isabel responds, “That Bailey’s got it figured out! She was my ‘onboarding buddy’, so I followed her lead on all things production and process at the start. We soon learned each other’s strengths and got good at tag-teaming projects and presentations. Now we almost read each other’s minds.”
The first project they worked on together was a 360 campaign for the Virginia Lottery, starting just days after Isabel was hired. Developing a holiday campaign in the middle of June, the pair would commandeer a conference room and bring the festive spirit by blaring Christmas music and streaming a virtual fireplace on the screen to get in the mood. Thanks to this out-of-season cheer and the support of their executive producer, the campaign went smoothly and impressed the client, setting the duo’s collaborative career off with a strong start.
Isabel puts their proficiency as a team down to the natural synchronicity of their working styles and the similarities in ideas that they both share. And although they often feel like they can indeed read each others’ minds, or work together without needing to speak at all, they do enjoy spitballing contrasting opinions for their opposite to springboard from. The similarities don’t end at the concepting stage however, as the creatives also regularly share similar frustrations throughout the creative process, which allows them to vent together or share a knowing glance across the table. Bailey says, “Anytime we disagree on something, we come up with a list of reasons on why we think this is the way to go. And most of the time, one of us will be like ‘Ah okay, I get that now. That works better, let’s go with that.’ We always hear each other out. And when we can, we bring both options. Why not?”
“We both recognise when it’s the other’s turn to take the front seat or back seat,” adds Isabel, “and I think that mutual recognition keeps us from disagreements.”
She continues, saying that after their first projects together, they decided to go by their ‘celebrity-couple name’, IsaBail, hoping to shake off previous nicknames ‘the girls’ and ‘the kids’ and to “facilitate the respect we know we and our work deserves.” The moniker has now made its way as a visual easter egg into almost all of their broadcast spots - first, as a perfect seven-letter license plate and subsequently, as the name for an imaginary band and convenience store to cleverly avoid copyright infringement. “We do it for kicks and for other young, female creatives to know they too can write themselves into the room,” explains Bailey.
Taking a step back to appreciate their creative partnership, Isabel says that it “prevents a lot of hiccups” as they both grow and learn new skills in the early days of their careers, as well as providing consistency from project to project. “Not having to navigate a different person through that process makes it that much easier,” she says. “We’ve gotten really comfortable with each other, so ideas flow organically, disagreements don’t really happen, and shit gets DONE! Also, I love having a built-in hype-woman.” This comfortability as a creative couple also allows them both to be vulnerable - something that Bailey views as vital during the concepting process.
Now working to take their creative to the next level, Isabel says, “We always find ways to bring more, do more, overdeliver and that’s especially true with new business. We’re shaking up how it looks and sounds and truly how Yebo approaches it as a whole. New business is a beast and involves answering difficult questions - we’re learning and creating those answers together.”
Bailey agrees, explaining that they frequently work on new business pitches, forcing the pair to adopt a more strategic role than on other projects. “It flexes a part of our brain we don’t get to use all the time when concepting for traditional briefs. We aren’t always sure how to start, but by the end, we walk away with something awesome.” A recent example of this was another Virginia Lottery campaign, involving a licensed property and the holding company, which saw them learn how to navigate new layers of approvals and waiting periods “without sacrificing their creative vision and without losing morale.”
Working at an empowering, female-owned agency, both Isabel and Bailey are inspired by their coworkers and the “creative women who have mentored them up until this point” - which in turn has inspired them to help other rising female creatives in their “small but mighty creative department.” Isabel says, “We see 99% of the work each other do, and it’s always above and beyond what was asked for by clients and accounts. We just can’t help ourselves when we get invested in a project, and we also know how to be scrappy when needed (which is often).”
Taking a break from work-talk, an area that the duo says they can improve in is socialising together in their free time - something that has become difficult to achieve since they both had their weddings this year and are slowly adjusting to married life. Once they find their rhythm again, however, they say that they’ll likely be found eating Mexican food together, camping or simply hanging as married couples.
In retrospect, Bailey says that this creative, professional and personal bond has “really opened her eyes” to how to be a good creative - and that her copywriter counterpart’s intelligence and “intention with her words” makes her want to create better and stronger work. Reciprocating the kind words her partner had for their working relationship, Isabel says that Bailey has taught her how a positive and productive work ethic, as well as overdelivering on even the simplest of tasks, is the key to creating more opportunities - and she parts with a tenacious final statement.
“Age is just a number, and we won’t let it define us or our work.”