Tag Archives: creative direction

Is everyone a creative director?

14 Aug

A few years ago, less than five, in fact, I shared a table in an agency with another creative (see my rant against hot desking earlier). We were not a team – he did something to do with branding and I guess he would have called himself a junior designer. This was his first job since leaving college and he was as wet behind the ears as any fresh-from-college junior could be. Cut to 2013 and a quick skim through Linked-In tells me that my friend is now creative director at a small design agency.

Five years is not a long time. It is not a long time to pass through the initiation of a career, through the junior, middleweight and senior rankings to the elite corridors of creative directorship. This man is probably still only in his mid to late twenties – is he really that good? And if he isn’t, is advertising and design such a simple nut to crack? Or is it something bigger than this? Something that deserves to be blogged about?

I am a creative director. Admittedly, I am in a start-up, so I am also the senior, middleweight, junior and placement creative too. But at least I have put in the years – the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell tells us are needed before anyone can be truly good at anything. I would put ECD on my Linked In page, but I have no idea what that means. It feels like the E is required to distinguish the guy who knows what he or she is doing from all the people who like the idea of a fancy title.

So who are all these creative directors? The industry is awash with them. Anyone with responsibility for the advertising for a single brand is now a creative director. At one agency, I was associate creative director which really meant nothing – I creative directed not one single piece of work in three years and was myself directed quite thoroughly by my paymasters.

Perhaps the superabundance of creative directors is a symptom of the reduced times in which we work. ‘We can’t give you a pay rise, but we can give you something sweet to slap on a business card’. The end result is that the term ‘creative director’ has been devalued. Today’s CD is yesterday’s group head. But hey, we all like to look good for the camera.

What I would say before I sign off is that ‘creative director’ is a lot more than a job descriptor on a pitch document. True creative direction can change the course of an agency. The effect of great creative direction on a junior creative can change the course of a career and, in time, can shape the whole industry. Great CDs are rare. Finding these chiefs in the sea of Indians that surround them is now harder than ever.