By Mark Welsh
I was doing a spot of low-impact networking this week when an embryo walked up to me and gave me his business card. Though he was barely old enough to walk or talk - let alone drink - his card read, "Creative Director". Perhaps the curl of my lip gave me away, but he gathered I wasn't all that impressed and shuffled sullenly back into his stroller.
Back when I was a slip of a copywriter with little more than an afro and a spare typewriter ribbon, the words "Creative Director" instilled equal measures admiration, envy, respect, and fear. Backed by decades of experience, great taste, and the ability to inspire a motley crue of hungover copywriters and art directors, they were brilliant talents and equally great characters. Think Don Draper, minus the brooding.
During my Ogilvy days my favorites included an Englishman with a lustrous flop of silver hair who wore custom-made silk dentist-shirts; an intimidating lesbian straight out of an Otto Dix painting who compulsively applied lip gloss every 5 minutes; and (by far my favorite) Ross Sutherland, a fellow New Zealander with great wit who'd accost uptight account executives in crowded elevators and loudly whisper, "Ken, you're a very attractive man. Don't think I didn't notice", just to watch them wince and squirm.
So, in a world where every man and his dogwalker is laying claim to being a Creative Director, what qualities should you look for -in addition to an impressive business card?
A CREATIVE DIRECTOR...
- INSPIRES GREATNESS. (Or at least very good-ness)
- MINES GLIMMERING NUGGETS OF BRILLIANCE. And helps finesse and polish them to perfection.
- STICKS TO THE PLOT. Especially when others wheel wildly off it.
- KNOWS A GOOD IDEA when he/she "adapts" one.
- CUTS OFF THE BEER AND WINE before the late night thinking goes south
- IS WITHHOLDING WITH PRAISE. Until it's deserved; a mindblowing concept in 2014.
- MAKES IT LOOK INCREDIBLY EASY
P.S. I clawed my way to Ogilvy CD status at the ripe age of 33, but after years wasted in focus groups I returned to what I love most; copywriting, developing brand voices, and typing 'til my fingers are raw.
Feel free to drop me a line to see how we might work together.