Agencies Give Creatives License to Wed and Work

Why Some Couples Don't Mind Mixing the Professional and Personal

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Aaron and Mandy Dietz don't mind mixing work and pleasure. The husband-and-wife art-director-copywriter team at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners is living on the cutting edge of what could be an emerging trend in the creative department: Call it "married with agency."
So happy together: The Wixom team
So happy together: The Wixom team

Mr. Dietz, 35, and his wife, 34, bonded over an assignment for Crane stationery at Farmington, Conn., shop Keiler & Co. After they married, they moved to San Francisco and sought separate jobs. Soon they realized two things. "We ended up working together even when we weren't working together" at the same agency, Ms. Dietz said. And after a number of interviews, it became apparent "we were more marketable as a team," she said.

The couple shares an 8-foot-by-12-foot office at Goodby and a junior one-bedroom apartment that's not much bigger. They share one office telephone line, which has caller ID displayed internally "Aaron and Mandy Dietz."

And they aren't afraid to be public about their lives. The couple has established a website,, which has a live webcam feed of their office space and their home, usually focused on their cat sitting in a chair.

'Having a marital'
But working in the same office has its drawbacks, no matter how well-matched the couple. Goodby's general manager, Derek Robson, said co-workers are aware when the couple is "having a marital." In an attempt to keep emotions under wraps, when tempers flare, the two go on iChat and have what Ms. Dietz calls an I-spat. "We fire off IMs back and forth; it's much more civilized," she said.

Because the on-and-off-job lives of the Dietzes and other art-director-copywriter couples mesh so easily, it does benefit the agency, they said. Home at night, Ms. Dietz cooks dinner while her husband comps the day's work, sketching out creative solutions. "One of the great things is they take the work home with them -- and they always solve it. You can tell they spent all dinner sketching it," said Christian Haas, group creative director, calling the team one of the agency's most liked and well-regarded.

Of course, the couple still has to grapple with those nefarious issues of money and pride. Jeff Goodby, agency co-chairman, said it was made clear to the couple that over time, one might get paid more, promoted or transferred to another team. So far that hasn't happened.

Another pioneering art-director-copywriter couple, Bartle Bogle Hagarty Art Director Kris Wixom and Copywriter Alisa Sengel Wixom, recommend the married-with-agency lifestyle because it allows them to spend a lot of time together in a business where creatives often don't see their spouses for long periods during out-of-town shoots and editing sessions.

Roger Camp, chief creative officer, Publicis & Hal Riney, who worked with the couple when all three were at Fallon, said during shoots the couple would take a bit of home to work with them, bickering over things such as bills or household chores. The pair agreed that home life sometimes spilled into the office.

Once, Mr. Camp said, on a shoot for Brawny paper towels, production came to a halt when the actors, crew and other agency and marketing executives needed direction from the Wixoms, who were charged with writing the script. The couple, which bills themselves as "the creative team that also has sex," had disappeared in the middle of the shoot. A production assistant spotted them embracing in the woods. "They came back a little sheepishly," Mr. Camp said.

Ms. Sengel Wixom, however, disputed Mr. Camp's recollection. "Not on that shoot," she said.
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