Creative Directors (or CDs) are the person in advertising and marketing industries that are in charge of thinking and seeing a project before it exists. CDs are designers, producers, editors, photographers, sketch artists, writers, engineers, directors, negotiators, motivators, visionary's, teachers, chefs, cheerleaders and mentors. You must have knowledge and respect of every aspect yet the ability to let others assemble your idea. It is a skill set the not many have, but vital for any good, sustainable advertising message, public event, concept production or marketing campaign.
CDs are often times the person who takes the lead and assumes all responsibilities for success of a campaign, event or promotion but never takes the limelight. This person has the sole purpose of leading other people (typically a production team) with a clear vision of the clients goal. This is a very rewarding and challenging career simultaneously. It is the one position everyone wants...if they are cut out for it!
I have compiled a list from my own CD experience and some other CD colleagues in various industries. These are MANY thoughts on what should a good CD do in order to accomplish goals for their team, their clients and themselves!
1.) Use all available resources. These can come in the form of equipment, location, employees, experience, partnerships, expertise and relationships just to name a few. All of these make up the fabric of good creative. It may not make sense on paper, on a whiteboard, or even in a conversation at first, but once it is woven together, the genius will be evident! The more of these you can weave together, the better the result will be! Use all available resources.
2.) Pass the praise. Many creative concepts start with a "thought" but need contribution from others for it to gather life. You may have the idea in your head, but sometimes someone else will mention a similar path or production. Look for these contributions and raise these people up with recognition and give them ownership to their contribution. Pass the praise.
3.) Stay positive! Instead of having a destructive nature of dismantling ideas that don't completely fit your vision, you will need to find morsels of ideas that can help with your overall project. Isolate the "good' part and utilize that as a springboard for others to launch. Repeat the "good" part and get excited about where it may take your project! Others will look to your positive attitude so they can proceed. Stay Positive!
4.) Embrace Chaos! The amazing part of being a CD is the madness of combining abstract thought, multiple concepts, variable client requests and productions requiring contingencies. This comes off as craziness and chaos. It is what makes CDs "tick" The general appearance is clutter and disarray, but the more chaos you have, the more avenues for energy you will experience! The trick is to funnel all of this creative energy into the proper direction. Embrace Chaos!
5.) Be the leader but not the "Lead!" You are the one that your client NEEDS to engineer the appearance of their product to the consumer. Sometimes this requires utilizing a brand, face, image, character or spokesperson that should be what the customer sees. The CD MUST put this in front of everything else and NOT look for affirmation of a "job well done." The results will speak for themselves (especially if you follow the other 9 suggestions) and will prove that a GREAT CD can put other items to the front and fully understand that they may never be seen or even acknowledged for the accomplishment. Be the leader but not the "Lead!"
6.) Try Something NEW! Anyone can replicate another success. Challenge yourself to think differently and MAKE the path that others will follow. Even though your client will get the credit, you will be exercising skills and talents that will benefit ALL that encounter you! Don't follow the leader, BE the leader! Try Something New!
7.) Replace Yourself! Find team members that are BETTER than you and groom them to be your replacement. This sounds strange, but if you have strong people UNDER you, then you can only be as good as you allow. If you have strong people AROUND you, you will be stronger! If you have stronger people REPLACING you, then you will be challenged to constantly be better! This ends up with a team of incredibly strong people! If you are as good as you think you are, you will always be employed. If you are not, then find another career! Your client will appreciate the outcome either way! There is no better person to find your replacement than you, and you will always get props for the people you mentor! Replace yourself!
8.) Exercise Your Creative Magic! Look at products, events, campaigns or other creative productions that you know NOTHING about and no interest. Now think of how is was made. Reverse-engineer the entire process back to the concept, and then, re-engineer it in a different way that you feel would be better. Evaluate the time, costs, and energy needed to accomplish your idea and then compare what you THINK would be different. Then apply the similar structure to a complete different product. Why would this be good for them? Why would it be a challenge? Push the "reset" button and repeat the process. Also try combining two completely unrelated products and choose a completely disconnected target audience and create a campaign that connects everything together...by the way, this is often times what a client asks you to do anyway! Exercise your creative magic!
9.) Speak what is on your mind. If you have done your homework, and you understand the product or service, plus you know the end user, you should be able to THINK like them. This is imperative because the consumer does NOT think like the client!...not in ANY circumstance! Don't let the client convince you otherwise because if you do, you are only doing what the client WANTS and not what the consumer needs. You will not have this client long if you are just doing that! Your job is to get inside the mind of the consumer and relate to them on a very cerebral layer. Find out HOW they think and WHAT they want or need, and WHY it is something they need. Say this out loud as if YOU were the customer. Now build the message that speaks to that very statement, because YOUR mind is the consumers mind. Speak what is on your mind.
10.) Trust your instincts! This is THE most important of all of these suggestions! You've made it to this position because you have the ability to envision things things that are abstract to others, so embrace this talent and GO WITH IT! Many incredible campaigns were inspired by a spark of creativity but would not have survived if someone didn't nurture the thought and take it to fruition. Trust your instincts.
These are just the top ten suggestions according to my experience and those of colleagues. The list can be in any order, and in fact, there are HUNDREDS of other suggestions as well. But you'll find those in your quest for becoming the dynamic Creative Director status that everyone admires and wants to be!
Bonus tip: Forget everything I've told you and go find YOUR top ten Creative Director "DO" items because it is different for every one of us!...Then share them with us!