Creative Conversations with Micky Tudor & Toby Allen
They've been working together at The&Partnership for just over six months now. We caught up to talk about and their own partnership and their vision of entrepreneurial creativity
26 May 2022
Micky Tudor, the chief creative officer of The&Partnership London, has been with the agency virtually since its launch. In October last year, Toby Allen, previously deputy executive director at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, joined him as executive creative director.
We sat down with the pair to talk about their approach, their favourite work, what advice they’ve got for people wanting to join the industry (and what the industry needs to do to attract them), what they make of Johnny Hornby’s creative efforts - and much more.
Following is the transcript of the video. The transcript has been edited for clarity.
Jeremy Lee: What’s your creative process at The&Partnership?
Toby Allen: Before we get into the process, we want to talk about our creative vision. And we've both been working on that for the last six months since I joined [Toby joined from AMV BBD]. And we've kind of distilled it into what we call - entrepreneurial creativity.
The&Partnership has always been a super entrepreneurial agency, and it's high time we kind of fuse that with the creative output and thinking and that is the apex of creativity. What we can offer is solving fast business problems in a way that doesn't necessarily look like advertising. And just finding unexpected answers to problems.
JL: Can you give us examples of entrepreneurial creativity?
Micky Tudor: Argos and Pinterest joining forces to launch The Mood Hotel - a concept hotel curated using interior design products from the high street brand, based on the interiors trends emerging from Pinterest’s annual trends report and designed by us.
TA: That's really looking at the business problem. So not that many people knew of Argos sold furniture. So then we went to Pinterest where people are looking for inspiration. To top it all we created physical space and hotel which is kind of like a showroom. So the business problem is addressed in one idea that goes from digital to the real world.
MT: Ideas that merge the real world and the digital world are often the strongest and and you know we've got a history of doing that. The RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) pregnancy test that we created for impair-sighted mothers - was a really emotional project that took two years to do. But to create a prototype of pregnancy tests for the partially sighted or blind, when you can actually be the first person to find out whether you're having a baby - an experience that wasn't accessible to some people - is very emotional. We’ve created for RNIB, a new business direction about design and then obviously charity. A force for change in the world of design and accessibility, and I think entrepreneurial thinking has led to that business changing from the inside out. We’ve always been very entrepreneurial and independent as a company. That's kind of in our DNA, and then fusing it with creativity.
JL: Micky, you’ve been at the agency for 20 years. And Toby, it’s been six months for you. How’s the dynamic between the two of you?
MT: So I’m continuity, and he [Toby] is change. But even after 20 years I still have the ambition and the hunger.
TA: I wouldn’t have joined if I didn’t feel that. And I get that from Micky, Emily Harlock [chief strategy officer], from Sarah Golding [CEO], and from Johnny Hornby [founder]. They all want to turbocharge the creative output at the agency.
JL: How do you feed off each other’s energy?
TA: It helps that I’m a copywriter and Micky is an art director. There’s a complimentary nature to that. But the thing I’ve been thinking about is how massively energetic the agency is. One of the things that struck me when I joined it's fast, and just everyone here seems to have a real energy. So even even if we're flagging and not feeding off each other, there's a whole crazy department and producers and what have you, the whole agency has a collective energy about it that we can we can all feed off.
MT: It’s a bit of a cliché to say we’re a big start-up. But we were still independent enough. I can remember the feeling of when we were just 15 people in a room starting up. I think that has not changed at all as those people that were there at the beginning are still to a huge, large extent still there. And that's partly because we have a partnership system. This is not a place to come to if you want to sit back and relax. We want to come up with groundbreaking ideas that change businesses. We want to do it in an energetic, dynamic, fast way.
JL: We are in Johnny Hornby’s office. What do you make of Johnny’s attempt on making ads for Hawkstone [his friend Jeremy Clarkson’s beer brand]?
MT: Well, I don't know I'm not sure there's been a creative director. He’s got a history of doing some pretty good at himself in the past, not many, one or two that have come out that such as for The Spectator. Maybe he needs a little bit more creative direction.
JL: What’s been your favourite work in the last year?
MT: Long Live the Prince[for the Kiyan Prince Foundation by Engine]. Hands down.
TA: I also loved the Donation Dollar campaign from Australia [by Saatchi & Saatchi Australia and the Royal Australian Mint, in a response to our dwindling reliance on physical currency, leaving charities or homeless people therefore at a disadvantage]. When we talk about entrepreneurial creativity that that is it in a nutshell for me. Rather than do ads about fundraising and donate more, it designed the world’s first legal tender currency designed to be donated. And I thought that was a brilliant piece of lateral creativity and it's halfway between a strategic and a creative shift. But it's just reframing an entire problem and in in a way that's hugely creative, that doesn't rely on advertising.
JL: What work are you most proud of?
TA: I had a lot of success and a lot of work that I hold very dear to my heart from the last agency, especially on Essity Bodyform business. But there was a campaign that was lucky enough to be part of, two years ago called ‘address pollution’, which was reframing a problem in a different way. So as you make air pollution and the environmental crisis, a health crisis means something to people who haven't taken notice of it before, and it's tied to their house. And it’s data drive. So again, another lateral shift. We all talk about data driven creativity. This is literally that and accurate to 20 square metres per square metres and doing something really creative and spiky in the property market. And and that was all it was. I met Humphrey [Milles] the founder of the activist group Copi (Central Office of Public Interest) and brought him into the agency and we kind of cooked it up together.
MT: What I'm probably most proud of is what we've created here, an atmosphere that means people are fearless. I'm proud that there's permission to experiment and permission to fail here as well. The creative department has that feeling of fun, and it’s joyous to work here.
JL: For new talent wanting to join the industry, what one skill should they have?
TA: We’ve been thinking about how, as an agency, but also as an industry we reset, we recruit and retain creators.
There are so many ways that you can basically make money being a creative person, being a creator that doesn’t involve working five days a week in an ad agency. And so I think we've got a job to do, collectively in harnessing some of that talent, finding policies that compensate them and maybe allow them to pursue a side hustle. Young creatives are hustling and they’re monetising their own creativity already in so many channels. So how do you tap into that and bring the best of that into agencies? I think it's a challenge, but it's a real opportunity for us as an industry.
MT: Curiosity, intellectually. And emotional tenacity. It's not enough just to be curious, because you can have loads of ideas that don't necessarily turn into anything. You need that tenacity to push them through and to make them happen. It's not just about making stuff, it's about making stuff happen and finding a way to get your ideas made.