I was part of a team today that consisted of just 2 people. There was this other guy and then there was me. I think Leonard was his name.
I didn’t really worry about much. It was, after all, a course in copywriting. Something I would enjoy. As the wise and suitably white-haired Allein Moore shuffled forwards and back, naming names and explaining why he loved Leo Burnett so much, I leaned back and watched the people in the group while I listened and typed subconsciously into my growing Wunderlist (yes it is very good to use, if you are wondering). 10 people, split over 3 tables, with an almost equal distribution of male and female. Each group already forming some kind of rapport with each other. A young and rather innocent-looking, if unsuspecting female, was starting to warm up to the man next to her. He was also a white-haired caucasian man, not unlike Allein. He was, however, slightly younger.
Another group of 3 women were banded together. They were a tight-knit, sitting right next to each other and angled at the projection screen. One was furiously taking notes. Another, obviously more senior, doodled with her pen and breathed out key words to her flustered companion while the third just sat and listened. I would later learn that they belonged to the same company. The one doodling was obviously in charge.
Which brought me to my table of 4 people. Two ladies and two men. A bond was already established between the ladies. They were manager and executive and possessed a Jedi Master to Padawan Learner relationship. Soothing suggestions mixed in with questions that alluded to instructions flowed forth from the older lady and were met with eager nods. I looked at the guy next to me, the obvious and only “team mate” I would get. He had come in late, pulled his netbook out and started answering emails in the middle of the lecture. It was at that moment that I had an slight worry.
That worry grew slowly and insidiously but there was very little doubt to the trained observer that it was going to develop into a case of full blown frustration for me. It is like a bug that burrows into your skin, only to end up in laying eggs in your blood stream that will hatch into thousands of flesh-eating baby parasites.
We had ambled into the portion where we had to come up with multiple headlines and ideas (I won’t bore you with the details) for breakfast delivery from McDonald’s. It was at this point where we had to come up with attention grabbing headlines for a hypothetical ad brief from McDonald’s. I turned to him and smiled, opening with “Okay! Let’s do this!” as enthusiastically as I could.
No need to get all edgy now right? He nodded, then stared at me blankly. I started to wrote 2 lines on my notepad, showed it to him and asked “What do you think?”
“Okay lor. Can use.” The response was immediate.
There was no critique, no praise, NOTHING. He didn’t hate it or like it.
I asked again “So what do you have? Would you like to share with me?”
He replied “Multiple thoughts.” and showed me 1 line that read “Eat hot breakfast at mcDonalds!” Which was basically what the brief said it wanted people to do. He did not, however, include anything else that was mentioned in the ad copy.
Another one read “Have a buddy Breakfast at McDonalds”
We never had any Buddy meals in the brief.
A subsequent one was “If it’s hot, It’s fresh”
It could have described anything.
My lines were in the vein of “No pots, no pans, no fuss. Just hot breakfast” followed by [key visual of hot big breakfast]. This was the style I had identified and used throughout this exercise. I came up with 24 more examples, some really bad, some surprisingly good. While that was happening, my “team mate” was replying emails on his netbook, not once contributing another line of copy.
That’s right, he came up with 3 lines that didn’t work then went back to answering his emails. This disturbing behaviour continued for the rest of the day with any other exercise. As a result, the rest of the teams had many examples of much much better copy all the time. Everybody knows I hate to lose. What everybody doesn’t know is that I can accept losing if everyone involved has tried their very best. This is not the case for this situation and I was livid.
It took me all my self-control not to reach out and murder him. I ended up forcing a smile at him and then sitting down after every group presentation. Needless to say, I would have enjoyed it a lot more if he had actually tried. At least we could then have laughed at our own mistakes.
On my commute home, I thought through the entire process and came to a conclusion that this problem was not unlike the outsiders I faced down everyday. They stifled me and refused to back me up, choosing instead to protect their self-interests. I didn’t have that primal sort of anger at them somehow.
Perhaps my anger resulted from a lack of patience at that very moment. Deep down inside, I was yearning for a better, more lucid partner. Perhaps I ask too much of others.
Nevertheless, I resoundingly resolved to stay away from him this coming Thursday. Then perhaps I would have another better story to tell.