Natural Collaboration: Chris Kitahara & Nathan Mallon, Laundry Service

You’ve got to find different ways to collaborate on the process, and we look forward to the days when we can do it over sushi and beers again.

Laundry Service
Full Service
Brooklyn, United States
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Nathan Mallon
Creative Director Laundry Service

Chris Kitahara
Creative Director Laundry Service

How did you meet and how long have you worked together?

CK: I had been at Laundry Service since 2017, working on Beats by Dre. Nath joined the Beats team at LS in late 2018.

NM: We quickly noticed that in addition to the traditional agency experience you expect to see, we both had backgrounds in photo and video production. I think we knew from the jump that there’d likely be opportunity for us to get our hands dirty making stuff together.


How would you describe relationship between you two? In what ways has the dynamic changed since you first began working together?

CK: Laundry Service, at that time, was maybe five- or six-years-old and transitioning from a social agency to having a more robust 360 offering. The creative team in LA was somewhere in the middle of having the core elements you need to truly deliver that kind of work. Nath took a minute to get to know the team and gradually started building upon what we had going – and pushing back on things that needed changing. 

NM: We found a strong rhythm, complementing each other’s skillsets, and our relationship became a strong creative partnership that led to both new business wins and oversight across the entire creative team in the LA and London offices.


Tell us about the first campaign you’ve worked on as a duo.

NM: In early 2019 we were awarded the Amazon Music account, with one of the first briefs hitting our desks asking to help launch their new HD tier to fans of music. This tier allows fans to listen in the highest quality streaming possible, giving the listener the ability to hear music like the artist did in the studio. 

CK: To introduce this to fans we launched with a series of brand films featuring tier A talent breaking down the finer details—the bits you would miss if you weren’t listening in HD. This collaboration with artists shared the product benefit from their perspective, giving the listener insight into the difference that listening in HD makes.



Do you have a favorite campaign you’ve worked on together? What makes it special?

NM: This one is quick to answer because, to-date, that Amazon Music HD campaign has to be the favorite. Listening to incredible artists like Brittany Howard, Neil Young, Big Sean, Halsey and more talk passionately about their music and why that product is important for their fans was incredibly rewarding to make.

CK: This project was particularly fun for us as it tapped into our respective backgrounds in production, editorial and music. The collaboration afforded us the opportunity to conduct extensive research on each artist, partner with great production teams and even get our hands on the tools in production—shooting stills and collaborating with the directors and sound engineers.


What has been the hardest part of working together? How do you resolve creative conflicts?

NM: Not trying to blow smoke, but to-date it’s genuinely been an incredibly easy and natural collaboration.

CK: We both bring different perspectives and skills to the work, but also are equally passionate about making sure the work is good. Having that mutual respect for what we both bring to the creative process makes it easy to resolve conflicts that come up.


Is there any advice you’d give to young creatives looking for a partner, or a duo just getting their start?

CK: The reality is: it’s all in the work and work ethic. Work hard, do great work, and don’t be an asshole. 

NM: People will take notice, whether that be potential creative partners, your clients or other agency teams. People will want to work with you if the work is good, and if they enjoy doing it with you.


Do you have a dream account that you haven’t had the opportunity to work on?

NM: Earlier in our careers I think we'd both have had a similar answer: accounts that are known for doing great work. While those account are great to work on, there's something slightly more rewarding and exciting about working on an account that has potential, but currently no one is talking about. Then, you see the work that you do getting people talking about the brand.

CK: Typically, these accounts are brands that champion creativity and innovation, and stand for something bigger than a bottom line. That’s where, as a creative team, you can really start to make an impact.


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?

CK: We have been incredibly impressed and humbled with how well our team and the agency as a whole has adapted to this new way of approaching work. The fact that we have all taken to this so well has, for sure, made everyone's lives easier in this new normal. 

NM: Yes, huge credit to the squad! But for the two of us, as the old cliché goes, communication is key. Working remote makes that more real than ever. We’re constantly on Slack video calls, chopping it up like we would if we were in the office. You’ve got to find different ways to collaborate on the process, and we look forward to the days when we can do it over sushi and beers again.


As far as tips go—probably nothing you haven’t heard before. In general, look out for one another...


•  Add value. Find ways to plus-up teammate and client initiatives. Overdelivering can go a long way in these times.

•  Cover. Work together to help maintain work-life balance. A big benefit of having a partner or team is not just collaborating on the work, but also having someone you trust to cover for a few days PTO. Even an hour here and there is important too.

•  Plan. Make sure to block time on your calendar for working sessions, so you don’t end up on back-to back-to-back calls and all of a sudden it’s 7pm and you haven’t had a chance to dive into the work.

•  Support. Make sure your team is feeling supported. Those 1-on-1’s are more important than ever. Give people the opportunity to step away if they need. This new way of working is easier on some than others, and so being aware of that and adjusting differently for each person is the only way to make it work.