Creative Directors Don't Have to Be Performers

Passion for Work, Not Ability to Present, Should Be Agency Chief's Prominent Quality

By Published on .

Mark Wnek
Mark Wnek

"He/she is a really great presenter."

It's something I hear more and more often these days. Seemingly the primary quality sought in an agency creative chief is the flair with which he or she delivers a new-business pitch.

Really? I have a confession to make: I'm a rotten presenter. When I think about the creative directors whom I most admire, they are all average presenters at best. Where their talents lie is in producing brilliant, effective work for their clients.

Most (me included) are no oil paintings. Many drink too much and throw tantrums. Mostly, they shouldn't be allowed out unaccompanied by an adult. Which reminds me of Baudelaire's definition of genius: the ability to recapture childhood at will.

The most important quality that all good creative directors share is a passion for great work. And passion isn't always pretty. Often it is messy, inconvenient, and un-house-trained. It doesn't always fit in an expensive suit or smart sports coat. It doesn't furnish its possessor with client-friendly savoir-faire.

When I present work I'm passionate about, I fall to pieces. I stammer and sweat and shake. I drop scripts. I spill coffee.

It's terribly embarrassing. But at least it's authentic. After all, creatives are not politicians. Nor are they actors. New business pitches are not meant to be vaudeville. Great work should be the only eloquence necessary. Everything else is flim-flam.

Mark Wnek is chairman-chief creative officer of Lowe, New York. He tweets at
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