Chris D'Arbon: Jumping in the Deutsche end - Sharing a creative exchange in Hamburg

Yannick & Chris.jpgChris D'Arbon (right), creative director at DDI Sydney, has just been in Germany on a 'Creative Exchange' with the ECD of Grabarz & Partner, Yannick Labbé (left). D'Arbon documents his experience exclusively for CB.

Let's get one thing clear, I had no idea what I was walking into. But showing up on the first day of a 'Creative Director Exchange' at one of Germany's leading creative agencies, Grabarz & Partner, I quickly realised that they didn't either. And it was here, in this shared unfamiliar territory, that we built something awesome.

GrabarzFront.jpgI introduced myself at the daily agency-wide breakfast and quickly revealed my true-self - 'the Aussie guy who speaks somewhere between zero and no German' (they would have shown me the door had they known the butchering their language was about to cop over the next two months). But to the contrary, a culture of acceptance immediately swept me up. Staffers who weren't working with me directly still approached me repeatedly to see how I was going, share a story about Australia or just to practice their English. There's an open doors and open minds ethos at Grabarz, or 'Participative Creativity' as they call it, that makes each day feel like a shared project. Breakfast, ideas, work-spaces and even dinner for those working late - it's all enjoyed together.

This string of connectivity formed the foundation of my amazing time in Hamburg. Be it after a weekend, some solo thinking time or a holiday, everyone returned to the solidity of shared ground.

Properly connected, it was time to do some actual work. I joined the International Team (the United Nations of creative collectives) and soon found myself at the epicentre of automotive paradise. The German advertising landscape is undoubtedly signposted by the large automotive brands. BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Porsche  - it all starts here. Luckily for me, Grabarz handle the latter two.

During my tenure on these brands, I found my daily duties adopting a far more conceptual bent. Ideas. Thick and fast. From everyone. Sharing them, discussing them, criticising them or building them up - I loved contributing to that exciting energy that ideas create. It's intoxicating. Grabarz & Partner is without doubt a gym for conceptual muscles and I got a workout that will most definitely strengthen the design strength that DDI pride themselves on.   

Every brief I worked on during my time at Grabarz & Partner allowed for unrestricted creativity - permission that no one takes lightly. There's a relentless pursuit on all teams for great. Side-stepping 'done' and 'small' is a daily discipline that has the top of pretty much every cupboard in the place overflowing with trophies - not least of which are the numerous Cannes Lions picked up at the 2017 Festival.

It's in this shared pursuit of greatness that everyone meets the conditions of entry for the culture of acceptance. If you've got talent and want to be awesome, you're in. Simple. When our need to connect combines with our want to be great, this is where the magic happens.

For me, a Creative Exchange represents something more than a 'work trip' for two creatives. It's about bringing down walls between players in the same game to discover the richness in each other's story. There no one way to do this thing we call creativity, so let's take Paul Arden's advise against coveting ideas. The more we give away, the more comes back to us. I've shared this experience with you by writing this piece. I shared it with Grabarz at a Q&A they organised called 'A Beer with Yannick & Chris' and I will bring my learnings back to my team at DDI to enrich our creative offering even further.
DDI.jpgInspiration, Stories, Ideas - they come from anywhere and everywhere.
So opening up the channels for this to flourish should be priority number one for any agency. It's on this very premise this Creative Exchange is based - hardly surprising why Grabarz & DDI both jumped at the chance to make it happen.


Doesn't seem like a fair swap said:

What could an award-winning ECD from a creative agency learn from an unheard design shop in Sydney?

Open minds win hearts said:

Doesn't seem like a fair swap: this sort of cynical sttitude is exactly the unnecessary negativity that turns people off advertising. Why not instead applaud a local independent for doing something daring and different? And acknowledge that learning always happens when open-mindedness is at play.

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