Letters, April 26, 2010

Published on .

Trying to define the 21st century creative director

RE: Phil Johnson's, "What the Hell Is a Creative Director Supposed to Be?" (AdAge.com, April 13)

We wake up in the morning like everybody else. But our dreams, ahhhh ... that is what makes us somehow different from those who work for a living. We bring our dreams to the workplace and forge them into ideas. We shape them with our blood and our tears and we polish them with our writers and our art directors until they shine like Aztec gold.

We're the bodyguards of the "silly ideas" that lead to dancing cats and move trainloads of Cat Chow. We're the champions of Twitter when others still think it's a bird call.

And then we get fired. And our flame flickers in the wind. Yearning for powers lost and conference rooms mesmerized. Until the phone rings. And a supportive voice on the other end says ,"You ever think of opening your own place? I know this guy, you should talk to." And another small agency is born.

Thank you, Phil. Thank you for understanding.

Inspiring your staff to be open and creative is the easy part. After all, they look to the CD/chief creative officer for leadership and guidance in their work. It's the inspiration of the executive staff that's the challenging part of the job. The other C-suites have their own perspectives and responsibilities to the business -- and I underscore business -- to keep the doors open. New-business pipeline, budgets, hiring/firing -- these you all know.

How many times have you been in a meeting and knew that something creative could be done to further the client's cause, only to be glared at from across the conference room table by the client-services person as they say, "We don't have the budget for that." I dare say that the role of a creative director within any firm is keeping the scales tipped toward championing "creative stuff for our clients" while still managing to make some money for the business. I personally will do anything to bring a great idea to life because it's the right thing to do for the client -- not because the client paid a deposit already.

A lot of what you're mentioning is situational. A creative director often "scales" with the agency as you yourself mentioned. An agency start-up needs a much different CD than a global agency might.

While creative directors can (and often do) turn into creative dictators, the best CDs understand those pitfalls and cultivate a core group of talented people that maintain and have creative control over their own brands and accounts. A good executive creative director can create a great group of CD's that do this.

One thing I'd add to your article is that a great CD needs to have the talent to inspire. This means that, both internally and to clients, a CD needs to be able to get in front of a group of people and get their emotions flaring, get them excited, buy into the ideas. The last is the importance of humility and staying humble. Never forget, we all were newbies at some point, staring wide-eyed at the glossy prints adorning the concrete walls and the glow from editing bays.

The debate over procurement rages on

RE: Avi Dan's "In Defense of Procurement" (AdAge.com, April 19)

The growing influence of sourcing departments and companies' reliance upon the cashflow benefits have become a fact of life. Yet the challenges are not just to the agencies. When decision-making is taken out of the hands of marketing and brand management, those accountable for results are no longer able to do the best job possible.

From the agency side, we are constantly faced with evaluating RFPs with the following concerns: 1) Is winning worth it? 2) If we win, can we do our best work under the contract constraints?

In my experience, the procurement departments have been well-intentioned, trying very hard to create apples-to-apples comparisons in an arena where that may not be truly possible.

This issue should be telling all of us that our category of the economy has matured enough to be viewed as a consistent line item on a budget. As such, it gets evaluated just like all the other "commodities" in that budget.

This is both good and bad, depending on how you look at it. All you big-agency guys thinking you are "special" need to start recognizing that you are now a "commodity."

So to get back into that space in the ecosystem where you are valued as a specialty, it is time to start innovating and finding/developing those rare pieces, not just more of the same repetitive dreck that so many of us are churning out.

Most Popular
In this article: