deep ad thoughts blog

Advice to a First Time Creative Director

When I was first asked to write this post, I submitted my copy in less than a minute. It read: “run”. Was I really just kidding with my beloved digital marketing team or was I serious? Honestly I could not imagine a more rewarding profession. But before you think it’s just like the glamorous depiction seen on the big and small screen, take these words of advice before you leap.


A good creative director must first and foremost, have super thick skin. There’s a reason when studying advertising in school that you put your campaigns up on the wall for all to critique — to get you ready for the rest of your life. Throughout your career you will often be called a genius and just as often, an idiot.


A good creative director must keep things on brand. One of the most important things we do is ensure that any material leaving the agency stays on strategy and sticks to brand guidelines. Boring I know, but also essential in making sure your brand never lets things slip.


A good creative director must be a great manager. Creative directors are usually in charge of the design team, which goes from junior to senior designers, art directors, copywriters as well as any web-based creative. I also would say that the creative director is responsible for anyone in the company when it comes down to how things are going to look. You need to have a real understanding and love for your company because you are looking after its image.


A good creative director must love their job. The best thing about my job is seeing work that the team has done, in action. It’s a fantastic feeling to see your stuff working and generating leads.


A good creative director must inspire. Becoming a creative director inevitably involves less time in front of Photoshop and more time leading and hopefully inspiring others. My own role still involves some hands-on design/copywriting, but very often it’s about me taking the lead on a project and working with a team that I hope is inspired to do work that is not only up to my standards to please me, but because I’ve taught them the importance of why it matters to reach for those standards themselves.


A good creative director must be okay with being hated. It is far too easy to be liked – you just have to be accommodating and hold no strong convictions. Then you will gravitate towards the centre and be average. That CANNOT be your role. You have to be the bad guy and insist that everything is strategic, perfect and effective no matter what the budget.


A good creative director must be a sponge. Be a sponge for as much culture as you can fill your mind with. Know all about the 25 year old, first time Dad that shops at Walmart and drives a Ford. You will have to speak to him someday. Learn all about the influencer – the married Mom of 3 that shops at Amazon and drives a Prius. You will speak to her nearly every day of your career.


A good creative director must believe. No one should present work that they don’t understand or really like. If the person presenting doesn’t believe in the work, there is no reason for the client to. Pick your fights very carefully. Once committed to a route, believe that it is the greatest idea on the planet and take a stand for that work. Protect it. Fight the good fight for a cause you passionately believe in: a great idea.

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