Many young creatives enter the advertising industry with aspirations of one day becoming the creative director at a major agency. Yet not every creative person is cut out for this particular job, says Wendy Moorcroft, Course Director at the Red & Yellow School.
She says that over the years, the creative director role has become the default goal for many ambitious art directors, designers, or copywriter thinking ahead into the future. Yet many creatives have unrealistic perceptions of what the role entails.
“Many of my students tell me that they want to be the creative director one day,” says Moorcroft. “It is a worthy ambition, though it is important to remember that the skills and qualities of a creative director are not necessarily the same as those of a good copywriter or art director.”
Moorcroft says that management and negotiation skills are vital for a would-be creative director, as is the ability to think strategically. The role isn’t simply to create, but to channel the creativity of the team and to help deliver the best possible results for the client.
“The creative director may set the direction for the work, but he or she also needs to be able to lead the team in the creative process,” she adds. “The role is very much about mentoring, nurturing, managing and supporting the creative teams. For many creative directors, it’s hard to avoid the temptation to do all the conceptual thinking themselves.”’
As such, one of the most important parts of the job is creating a great environment for creativity and building the right team. One challenge is managing creative people in a way that gets the best from them.
The creative director should, ideally, be the champion of good ideas from the entire team. That means he or she needs to inspire confidence in clients and from the creative team, says Moorcroft.
“You need to be seen as a person with confidence and conviction,” she adds.
“One of the hardest parts of the job is stopping all the things that are trying to kill good ideas – client resistance, internal politics, and budget, for example. There are so many failure bullets to dodge.”
A good creative director must also be flexible and forward-looking, according to Moorcroft. He or she must be willing to learn about other disciplines – this means that the creative director with a copywriting background must understand art direction, design, film and digital technology, for example, and should also have experience in a range of media from TV to print to digital.
What’s more, creative directors must be open to lifelong change and learning. It is up to them to stay ahead of how consumers are using technology, to stay abreast with changing tastes and trends in the broader market.
Says Moorcroft: “The role of the creative director in any agency is a pivotal one and it can be very rewarding, but it’s not always as glamorous as people entering the ad industry imagine. A great creative director is a client service person, a trouble shooter, a teacher, a cheerleader and a pragmatist.
“Not every great creative director is a great visionary; and not every great creative is a great creative director. If it’s a role that appeals to you, you should look beyond your own discipline and learn about strategy, account management and technology. And hone your people skills because they’re as important as your intuition and creativity.”