6 Tips for Creative Concepting When You’re Quarantined Away From Your Partner

Creatives around the world share their advice

Creative concepting, historically accomplished in a room together, has suddenly become a remote task. Getty Images

Key insight:

Some of the best creative ideas are dreamed up after hours, days and even weeks of creative brainstorming and collaboration. But how does that work when most of the agency world is scattered into quarantine?

Creative partners who once relied on face-to-face chemistry have been pulled apart—but the pressure to develop big ideas for clients and pitches hasn’t been lifted.

Adweek asked veteran creatives around the world to share their experiences and advice on how to keep the creative juices flowing from home—even in the midst of a global pandemic.

Look your partner in the eyes

Your creative partner, that is. Many creatives spend scores of hours together each week, and it’s important to try to keep that relationship alive.

“We’ve made it a point to keep interactions face-to-face whenever possible. Every meeting, regroup, catch-up, brainstorm session—no matter how big or small—is done through Google Hangouts,” said Ryan Engelbert, creative director at We Are Social New York. “It’s forced us to be even more focused on each other and more accountable for the information and ideas that are being exchanged.”

Awkwardness can be a good thing

Engelbert’s creative partner and fellow creative director Casey De Pont recommends creatives embrace the occasional awkwardness that comes with video calls, since you never know where such moments may lead.

“Video chat still feels awkward to us as humans,” Du Pont said. “There’s a lot of pressure for maximum productivity and zero wasted time when you’re digitally staring each other down, but creative development doesn’t work that way.”

Interruptions and broken flows can sometimes be beneficial, even if they don’t always feel like they are in the moment. They teach us that video conversations can be just as imperfect as having a long collaborative session in the real world.

“You need the awkward pauses and the space between ideas to let things breathe and develop. The more we can be real people in the virtual space, the more comfortable we’ll become working there,” she said.

Enjoy having the space to think

Time spent alone means there is time to really think on your ideas and consider them before throwing them in the ring. You can also, as Droga5 copywriter Gabe Santana points out, make the most of being able to say some really bad ideas out loud without anyone being around to hear them.

“I think the best part about working from home is that I can lie down on the floor and say bad ideas out loud without bothering anyone,” Santana said. “Except Germany, of course.”

That would be Germany Lancaster, Droga5 art director, Santana’s creative partner and self-proclaimed homebody who has warmly embraced the shift to working from home. Lancaster prefers to brainstorm alone and mull it all down to a few good concepts “before meshing ideas” with Santana.

“Once I’ve got a couple ideas down, I like to either present them to my partner in a deck or chat through them in hopes that they springboard into something grand. Chatting through ideas always leads to lots of laughs, so that’s definitely a bonus,” Lancaster said.

Build or strengthen your partnership

You’ll already know your creative partner and other close colleagues well, but you can use this time of working remotely to really strengthen—and possibly test—that relationship.

For Ludovic Miege, copywriter at Havas Paris, working remotely hasn’t been too much of a problem so far because he and his creative partner, art director Jordan Molina, have worked together for six years.

“For us, working like this is not very complicated because we know how to work together and do not need to see each other to work,” he said. “We can call each other all day long using Facebook, Whatsapp, Gmail, Zoom. We have many ways to communicate and exchange our ideas.

“Because of our long relationship, we know how the other one understands things. You are more efficient when your partnership is strong.”

Keep a routine, but don’t overdo it

For people used to working in an office, adapting to a remote working environment can feel strange. In particular, it can be tempting to overdo videoconferences and calls in a bid to prove you’re pulling your weight.

But Madrid-based Javier Campopiano, who recently joined Grey as chief creative officer of Grey Europe and Global, warns this will only lead to burnout. He says keeping structure in your day is important.

“Right now, I try to keep a routine. My kids are not going to school so we don’t need to wake up as usual, but we’re trying to keep the same schedule. I try to exercise on the balcony, because I can’t go for a run—we can get a fine—so I exercise and then shower,” he told Adweek. “I dress up to work, maybe less formally than I usually do, and I sit in front of my computer in my little office here at home.”

He recommends avoiding “doing too many video calls, as you tend to over-index when you’re working remotely, and then you find out you’ve spent the whole day in meetings and didn’t have any time for thinking.”

Embrace being able to work in your pajamas

Many people enjoy the sense of routine that comes from getting dressed for work. But if you’re not feeling it, don’t sweat it, advises Mariana Albuquerque, a creative copywriter working in Ireland.

“The main challenge is not being distracted by other people—or animals—in your home, and understanding the time to start working and finishing it,” she said. “Since I’ve been working from home for a week, I’ve created a routine for myself. I wake up, fix my breakfast, make some coffee, log in on Microsoft Teams, and call my creative partner if we need to discuss ideas. I do wear a comfy PJs, though. It doesn’t make me feel lazy at all. But I do comb my hair in case of a video call.”

For her creative partner and art director, Carina Caye Branco, the most important thing of all is open communication.

“Communication is key, and trying to organize our day and tasks. Be online all the time, or at least tell your partner if you need to go offline and how long,” she said. “And keep a record of everything you’re thinking/doing. [That has] been proving really helpful for us.”

@saramayspary sara.spary@adweek.com Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She's been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.