Creative Sparks

How Professional Pranksters and The Bald Soprano inspire these creative stars

Sam Collins and Ivan Stanojevic from The&Partnership talk Creative Sparks with us

By Avnie Bansal

Sam & Ivan are - in their words - a team comprising 'Half Drag-Queen and Half Short-King' or - as we would call them - rising creative stars creating integrated global campaigns for a prestigious portfolio of brands including M&M's, Mars, Snickers, Skittles, Extra Gum, KIND, Whiskas, Pedigree, Toyota and Lexus.

Known for bringing Beyonce/football fan energy to the table, the creative duo loves butting heads together and making sure the result is top-notch.

Winners of the D&AD New Blood Pencil 2021, the duo made a real impact with their Skittle's ‘Squishy Cloudz’ campaign and the ‘Every Smile Should Shine’ campaign pivoting the global strategy for Mars Wrigley’s Extra Gum.

The Squishy Cloudz campaign, featuring 'Squishy Fish', was born out of the universal insight that when we see or hold anything squishy, we’re overcome with an irresistible urge to, er, squish.

Sam & Ivan are a rare creative breed with big brains and funny bones – In their words they ‘take silly seriously’, combining forensic strategic rigour with off-the-wall creativity. And they have exceptional taste in knitwear.

Toby Allen, ECD, The&Partnership

We talk to The&Partnership creative duo about their inspirations and what really gets their creative nerves tingling.

Sam Collins  

“Silly taken seriously.”

The work I love most has this at its heart and best characterises the work I love to make. Bestowed upon me from birth, my penchant for the ridiculous is innate – indeed I was making dad jokes long before I had the biological means to become a father. Funniness matters to me. A lot. Though I do feel a sense of duty to balance the silliness in my life with the worthy, my creative sparks all have one thing in common – they’ve all made me laugh. 



From the sharp intellect of Monty Python & Henry Root Letters to the lower hanging fruits of Trigger Happy TV, surrealist comedy stole my attention from an early age. And still today some of my favourite shows & acts are adherents to this tradition – people like Reggie Watts, James Acaster & shows like Channel 4’s Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared. In my eyes, capitalistic surrealism has peaked with Diamond Shreddies – though we were lucky enough to make our own contribution to the genre, with Skittles in this spot.

Professional Pranksters

Everyone loves a good prank, but not all pranks are created equal. There are cheap pranks. Then there are Professional Pranks. Cheap pranks are a dime a dozen – they make up 95.6% of YouTube. But a Professional Prank? A Professional Prank makes a point, changes a mind, or causes a stir. It was the sharp wit, clever writing & truly outlandish chutzpah of the BBC’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised that made the show one of my favourites growing up. It proves that a well-choreographed prank can have audacious outcomes, occupy column inches & make a sombre point, powerfully – a stellar example of this from the world of advertising is The Lost Class.


Done well, satire is so revealing, capable of exposing otherwise unreachable elements of ourselves, our politics & our society. Charlie Brooker’s writing in Newswipe & Diane Morgan’s iconic Philomena Cunk are both superb. But my hero, Sacha Baron Cohen, intertwines the art of storytelling by-way-of-pranking like no one else. From the wilfully ignorant Ali G joyfully exposing the prejudices of nineties Britain, to Borat’s (sometimes literal) undressing of modern America, Cohen’s work proves that great character writing can get you in anywhere and give you the licence to do just about anything – including getting Dick Cheyney to sign a waterboard.

These are the major genres that have informed most of the creative projects I’ve undertaken. I’m blessed to have found Ivan – someone who shares my appreciation for the silly, and who possesses the same desire to take it so very seriously. 


Ivan Stanojevic

Out of all the pieces of writing I had to read during my early school years there was one work that really stood out to me - Eugène Ionesco’s play The Bald Soprano. 

It felt like the writer was taking the piss, but with an air of sophistication. Sophisticated, if you will. I had discovered the original form of trolling - pre internet. I was elated. This absurdist play immediately captivated my attention because of how banal and meaningless it felt. The characters lacked self-awareness and seemed to live in this weird dream world that feels different to our own. In a standout scene we see a man and a woman on a train engaging in small talk. They talk as if they are complete strangers. Slowly they realise that they both live at the same address, sleep in the same bed and both have a daughter named Alice. Finally, they realise they are actually, married. 

As I grew into my queer identity, a director whose work spoke to me in a big way was John Waters. An absurdist director pushing the boundaries of bad taste. Him being able to create queer masterpieces like Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble starring Divine (maybe THE most iconic drag queen of our time) in the 70s is just insane to me. Those films are so unapologetic, and they feel SO fresh even 50 years on. They strike a perfect balance of being accessible to the everyman but then delivering situations and visuals that would shock that everyman to his everyman core!

Both above-mentioned works take silly seriously. The Bald Soprano only works if it’s treated with absolute seriousness, as if it was a serious drama because that’s where the humour and absurdity of it comes from. Similarly, John Waters may create slightly exaggerated versions of Baltimore populated by characters who are embodiments of “bad taste”, but he always treats them as real people with purpose and drive. They’re always outrageously funny but they feel authentic to themselves and the world they populate. 

I take taking silly seriously very seriously (try saying that quickly) and it bleeds both into my advertising & drag careers too. X Yugoslavia is an utterly silly clown, but she has pride! Drag is an incredible outlet because I get to be my own client and you know what that means - my logo just keeps getting bigger. I kid, I kid, it means total, unadulterated creative freedom. 


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