How did you meet, and how long have you worked together?
Bennett Austin (B.A.): Nick might be embarrassed to admit it, but we actually met through a professional matchmaker, Nicole Gordon, our recruiter at D&G. She thought we would work well together, and she was right. Two and a half years later, we are still in the honeymoon phase.
How would you describe the relationship between you two? In what ways has the dynamic changed since you first began working together?
Nick Micale (N.M.): I think what’s been great about working with Bennett is that he has this nonstop drive. Always coming up with ideas—and not just stuff for work, either. And that hasn’t changed. I’m more of an introvert, so it’s good to have someone who’s always there pushing. Providing a balance.
(B.A): Nick and I are both creative night owls. For me, it’s really important to find someone with the same work ethic and creative schedule. With all that’s happening during the day, we both do our best work after hours, without meetings and emails interrupting the creative process. Our working dynamic actually hasn’t changed over video chat. We’ve managed to make our two biggest projects during the pandemic, but Nick is due to have a baby next month, so we shall see…
Tell us about the first campaign you’ve worked on as a duo.
(N.M.): I think the first real campaign we worked on together (not just a smaller assignment that was part of a greater campaign) might have been for a family of Kia SUVs. It was all about Kia’s youth, and their ability to push the boundaries. Juxtaposed against the 100-year-old car brands out there, who rest on their laurels rather than try anything new. We shot it against the backdrop of a gritty, old ghost town in Montana, where we just let the SUVs run wild. So, that was pretty fun. And a good opportunity to see how each other functioned on set—which is a bit of a different dynamic—where skills that might not be present in the office shine through.
Do you have a favorite campaign you’ve worked on together? What makes it special?
(N.M.)/(B.A.): It’s the same campaign for both of us—K5•LIVE—to launch the Kia K5. The idea was to use the very notion of “live-ness” to breathe new life into the dying category of sedans. So, we had all these crazy, spontaneous events we were planning. Stunts no one had ever done before. Then, of course, the pandemic hit. And we had to pull off a campaign that would have been difficult in pre-pandemic times during the pandemic. So, there was a lot of challenges outside of the stunts themselves. It was by far the biggest and most complicated campaign we’ve both ever worked on. It was a huge learning experience. And being able to come out on the other side successfully, is something we’ll never forget.
Fun Fact: The “Flat Spin 360 Jump” was the grand finale of the campaign. And almost didn’t happen. It had never been done before. So, we practiced. A lot. But never quite landed it. Until the very last car.
What has been the hardest part of working together? How do you resolve creative conflicts?
(B.A.): The hardest part is not getting lost in Nick’s chocolate brown eyes. Honestly, Nick and I work really well together. If there’s a disagreement on creative, we usually talk it out. Truthfully, there haven’t really been any conflicts. At least not that I am aware of, haha.
(N.M.): I think it’s like any relationship. There are gives and takes. And plenty of bending. Most of the time, the phrase, “Well, let’s just include it as a second option,” is our go-to conflict resolution, haha. What we do is so subjective that if we’re split on an idea, someone else’s opinion is often the tiebreaker. But, if one of us really has a heart for something, the other is usually fine with it. And at the end of the day, what could really go wrong? Someone says your idea stinks? That’s part of the job no matter what.
Is there any advice you’d give to young creatives looking for a partner or a duo just getting their start?
(N.M.): In terms of looking for a partner, I think it’s important to be open to new ways of thinking. But make sure it feels right, too. It helps if someone has stuff in their portfolio you’re actually a fan of. If you like their work, chances are you will probably like them, too.
For duos just getting their start, I think the most important thing is to just stay positive. Keep going back to the well for new ideas. It might take a while before you sell something, but don’t let that get you down. It’s hard for everyone. Even people with tons of experience.
(B.A.): Yeah, I agree with Nick. Finding someone who stays positive, and is always willing to go back to the well is important. But also someone you feel comfortable saying the dumbest ideas to. Because gold can be found in even the most random of thoughts. And you shouldn’t feel restricted during concepting. A great partner respects and supports your unique creative process.
Do you have a dream account that you haven’t had the opportunity to work on?
(N.M.): Not really a specific brand or entity. But I’m a huge music fan. And I love experiential stunts. So, I guess a music account of some sort that provides the opportunity to combine something I love with what I do for a living would be cool. Or an account that’s always seeking new ways to connect with audiences. Trying things you can’t always focus group or accurately gauge the success of prior to its launch.
(B.A.): For me, it’s not so much an account that I want to work on, but causes to do work for. One of the great things about D&G is that we do a lot of impactful, conscientious work for an ever-growing list of charities and causes. Thankfully, I don’t have to choose just one. Which is actually one of the many reasons I was drawn to the agency.
How has the pandemic impacted working with your partner? Do you have any creative tips on how to collaborate when you’re working from home?
(N.M.): I think, for the most part, the process is largely the same. If we need to talk or concept, then we just hop on a computer rather than talk in person. Or we think of ideas separately and then find a time to connect. But no longer having the ability to just turn to your partner and say, “Hey, what about this…” can be a hindrance. Because now you have to call, text, or shoot a note of some kind. And the other person might not always be available. In terms of collaboration tips, I think what we’ve all had to do is learn to understand and respect each other’s new reality. And find what works best for both parties.
(B.A.): Working over video chat has made me aware of the importance of body language during team presentations. Presenting and discussing creative over conference calls can be tricky when you don’t want to interrupt the flow or talk over each other. What I have found that works best for me is having a quick discussion before about a general plan of attack. It gets you both on the same page, prepared, and makes for a more fluid presentation.