Years ago, when I was working as a copywriter for a number of agencies, I would encounter some very average (or worse) Creative Directors and a select few who were exceptional. So what defined the cream of the crop?
First, they had built-in radar which allowed them to instantly recognize a powerful idea from a torrent of those which were not. If you think this is easy, trust me, it isn’t. (Sometimes, it was just the seed of an idea that needed much more work.) Second, and more importantly, they had the ability to sell the aforementioned exceptional – and often risky – idea through the entire approval process. Meaning not just inside the agency, but also through all levels at the client. Perhaps not 100% of the time, but enough so that the best ideas were in fact, brought to life.
This would ensure that the agency had an impressive, contemporary portfolio of work that could be used bring in new business. But it also meant that the writers and designers employed there would also have impressive, produced concepts to improve their own value in the marketplace. Another thing I learned early on: win a bunch of awards, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to find your next gig.
Another very important lesson I learned from the best CDs was the power of a campaign vs what we used to call a ‘one off’ idea. It’s hard to come up with a disruptive idea that’s also on strategy. But it’s even harder to create a campaign. Because a smart campaign requires many executions in a variety of different media formats. Great campaigns build brand equity for clients. Over time, they often give birth to a distinct and memorable personality for a product line that previously did not exist. It’s a house for the brand to live in.
If you ever wonder why companies spend so much on advertising & branding, that’s why. And if they’ve had a truly capable Creative Director involved, they got much more than their money’s worth.