Team Talk: Effie Kacopieros and Christian Tough
Christian Tough & Effie Kacopieros are senior creatives who teamed up at DDB Sydney. Now they’re turning the traditional agency model inside out at Yes Agency, and talk to us responsibly about responsibility.
CT: We’re coming to you live from the bow of Yes Agency this week to talk about “responsibility”.
EK: It’s a big topic. It’s an important topic.
CT: Let’s talk responsibly about responsibility.
EK: It would be irresponsible not to.
CT: Are you in a general sense a responsible human, Effie?
EK: Depends on the day. What about you?
CT: I know sometimes I’m just way too exhausted to be responsible. That’s why people litter I guess. They’re too exhausted to just put it in the bin.
EK: It’s not our fault there’s never a bin in the creative department.
CT: There are never any bins in creative departments! Why is that? Do you recycle…?
EK: Yeah I recycle, my building has a whole recycle room...The advertising world could be more eco-friendly, too. We could print less 88-page decks.
CT: I mean, I’ve recycled a few headlines in my time. Kidding. I remember at an agency we used to work at, I saw the cleaner emptying the paper bin into the regular bin. So, we can all think we’re being responsible by recycling, but if we don’t see something through to the end - then we’re just kidding ourselves, right?
EK: Exactly. We can all come up with world changing ideas... but what good are these if we don’t make them. If we don’t take responsibility for our own work-
CT: -it’ll just end up in the wrong bin.
EK: Do you think our industry is socially responsible?
CT: I think advertising can be good aaand evil. It couldn’t hurt to recruit more people with a social conscience.
EK: People who use Keep Cups.
CT: Or agencies could actively seek to work with more socially responsible clients. I’d love to work with Patagonia. I think brands who sell less stuff are cool. But if these clients are few and far between then I think it’s our responsibility to question what we’re putting out into the world. If we’re trying to get people to think and act differently, then hopefully we’re helping them make better decisions.
EK: We can put more truth out into the world. I remember one of our AWARD School students read a script out loud about a girl nagging her boyfriend-
CT: Guys nag their boyfriends too-
EK: -so write that! It’s an easy shortcut to write stereotypes, but I think we owe it to everyone to go beyond these.
CT: As a creative team, we’ve become pretty good at checking ourselves over the years.
EK: We often ask each other “Is that sexist…?” “Is that racist...?” “Is that ageist...?” If you have to ask the question - it usually is.
CT: But asking the question can save us from saying it in a room full of people... and looking like massive jerks.
EK: The Jerk Test is a trademarked Christian and Effie tool. If something doesn’t pass the Jerk Test™, then we have a responsibility to navigate our clients in a different direction. Saying it to a room full of people is a bad look, but saying it to the internet can be worse. Social media is ruthless at tearing brands down if we let some things slip through.
CT: Poor Kendall. We once tried to promote a new book by giving one fan of this particular series the chance to have their back tattooed. A huuuuuuge dragon tattoo, by an incredible tattoo artist and photographed by an amazing photographer - to become “the back” of the book’s poster campaign. We had hundreds of applicants dying to be chosen, but one journalist in the States was offended by this idea and our trade press jumped on the bandwagon and negged on the campaign pretty hard...
EK: ...but the brief was to create controversy and buzz. So job done.
CT: Just a shame that it was pulled before we got to ink someone’s back with a giant dragon. It’s our responsibility to get our clients’ products talked about but I don’t always think you can set out to please everyone on social media. Then the work just becomes beige.
EK: Yes, it’s a grey area.
CT: Grey and sometimes beige.
EK: I think also when you’re a bit different, you check yourself more. The loudest voices usually feel comfortable and confident sharing their perspective without a filter. I think advertising would benefit from listening more. So that we’re hearing other perspectives.
CT: Like my ninety year old Grandma says “everyone’s different.” It’s cool when different perspectives are represented in creative work.
EK: We often come up against feedback to make our characters the same as our target audience. Just because we like Harry Potter films, as the audience do we need to be wizards to relate?
CT: Expelliar-no. We’ve been having this conversation since our campaign to change the Cannes Lion into a Cannes Lioness. We set out to create a platform that recognises work told from different perspectives. It’s a shame that there would ever need to be an award for this though.
EK: But everyone loves an award so whatever works…
CT: Responsibility is a large one. I feel like we could ramble on all day and barely scratch the surface. It’s been getting a pretty good scratch lately, though.
EK: I think working in a creative partnership is interesting. Our responsibility to each other. It’s my responsibility to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race so that you have someone to talk to about it on Monday morning.
CT: Yes, as a creative team you’re responsible for each other’s higher learning. Like I thought DJ Khaled and Khalid were the same person, until you told me otherwise yesterday.
EK: They’re not the same person. At all.
CT: It’s our responsibility to push each other as a team. To help the other squeeze out another idea when there’s nothing left or to better our craft. We take turns motivating, inspiring or catching the other. What other profession has that?
EK: Figure skaters.
CT: Skate responsibly.