What makes a good Creative Director?

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Last week, The Denver Egotist kicked off things on this topic by writing an editorial. Scamp, picked up the thread and wrote his version soon after. The Ad Contrarian then re-posted some of his earlier thoughts on this subject. All of which make for fascinating reading. My favourite one being The Ad Contrarian’s view.

I don’t profess to be in their league. I am not a Creative Director either. But herewith some thoughts gleaned (sigh) over the years. They could be similar to the posts referred above.

A great planner: all good creative minds are good planning minds. Many a time, the person who is able sift through all the data, jargon, objectives, strategies, way forwards and optional routes is the creative person. And the best of the lot have an uncanny knack of getting to the core of the problem and doing the right thing.

Shows the team how it’s done: when the team gets stuck on a project, I have seen some CD’s take charge and show them what’s possible, usually with a ‘wow’ reaction from his team. Quite like the captain of a cricket team coming to the crease when the team is in trouble and scoring the proverbial ‘captain’s knock’.

Nurtures a team that can be independent: instead of running to him with every problem or looking up to him to clean up the mess, the good CD’s teach the teams to independently arrive at solutions. To bring up the cricket analogy again, the hallmark of the good Australian cricket team was individual team players figuring out what is right for the team

Good with clients as a business partner: obvious one.

Great presenter: and I don’t mean just presenting with great flair and flourish. Often, creative meetings meander into related and unrelated questions and a good CD fields those questions well and speaks sense.

Ruthless when it comes to saying ‘No’ to mediocre or bad work: obvious one.

Tells why he said ‘No’: when it comes to subjective stuff like ads, very often the reaction is ‘It doesn’t work for me’. A good CD may very well give that response but would go beyond that to give a reason and a possible way out.

Has a life beyond work: must draw inspiration from things beyond advertising. It could be theatre, jazz, pottery…whatever.

Accepts difficult clients as part of life: yet puts in the same effort on that client as he would on a good client. And treats every job with the same care and eye for detail. Not just partial to mega TV campaigns.

Takes all the pressure and responsibility but shares the credit: obvious one.

Thinks like the youth, understands mainstream media: the common bugbear of seniors in the business is technology. Keeping pace with how today’s kids interact with technology and being familiar with it would be key requisite for a good CD. Knowing how to use blogs, Twitter and any new thingamajig that interests the youth would make them valuable to the junior members of the team and clients. Another peculiarity with India is to do with the myriad languages and popular culture. Figuring out what’s popular today – it could be the melodramatic soaps or reality – is important. So is the ability to think pan-India. An ability to think in Indian languages would be an asset.

I am sure there are other aspects of a good CD. Any comments on the above or care to add some more?

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  1. sir,
    ive spent some time with advertising now, ive seen my share of CD’s, ive had great ones and ive have had really bad ones…and they are bad ones for a simple reason that they never told me why the idea or the creative never worked for them…its so true…you work hard…come up with something that you may think is a killer….but all you’d here is “it doesnt work for me”…”not edgy enough”…”Dhum nahi hein”…sad.
    i hope some of them do see this post by you!

  2. an eye opener for every aspiring CD! And a ready reckoner for every CD! To be honest the best CD I have ever worked under had about 8 of the 11 u’ve mentioned…most don’t cross 5!

  3. One more aspect could be..Being approachable and someone who is open to ideas from anyone in the agency.

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