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Is your boss any good? 10 attributes of a top creative director.

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I had a go at being a creative director once. It didn't quite work out. All sorts of reasons why but the main one being that I was just 30 years old. Looking back that's probably too young to be in the hot seat. Although I knew how to come up with ideas at that age I didn't really get my head around the job. And if I had understood the full requirements I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have taken on the role.


If you ask me, being a creative director is not much of a laugh. The creative department, the account handlers, the client; they all want their pound of flesh. Everyone's got their own opinions and everyone knows best. Well, better than you anyway.

Then toughest part of the job, for me anyway, was all about management. How do you get the best out a department full of creative people. What do you do - scare them into thinking they'll lose their job if they don't deliver? Or do you let them get away with murder and pat them on the back for simply turning up in the morning?

I've worked under a bunch of top CD's over the years and they all have a different way of doing it. And I suppose that's the main point - you have to do it the way that feels right for you. What you soon learn is that there is no instruction manual and there are few people who can guide you. It's about knowledge and instincts and here are perhaps 10 of the most important.

1. A great judge
Not only sprinkles the all important fairy dust but has an uncanny knack of spotting a great idea, even when everyone else has walked straight past it.

2. Lots of experience
Created and produced some great work in the past and has the trophies to prove it. Remembers magic markers and cow gum but keeps it quiet.

3. Hungry
Continually seeks greatness and, with almost Terminator-like persistence, won't stop until his/her mission has been accomplished.

4. Develops creative talent
Wants to work with people who are as good as, if not better than, him /herself. Important point because helping develop talent is not just good for the agency, but good for the industry.

5. Assured presenter of creative work
Can stand up without everyone cringing. Doesn't need to be Tom Cruise though - because in presentations the work should always be the hero.

6. Understands creative people
Sometimes creative people don't behave in the way they are supposed to. It's in their nature to challenge things. He/she 'gets' this and understands why folk need to run about on the agency roof.

7. Hands out constructive criticism
If it's wrong, a top CD explains why it's wrong. It's an important point. 'Nah' isn't good enough.

8. Cracks the problem when it matters
When the going gets tough, the tough clear their desks, fire up the computer, and start trawling through the old ideas they kept somewhere.

9. Fights for (and gets excited about) the work
If a CD's is passionate about the work, the department will be fully committed to the CD. Fact.

10. Comes fully armour plated
Client has bombed the last campaign. MD wants to merge with Brunnings. TV Director has torched the rushes. No worries, the CD picks him/herself up. Dust him/herself down, and smiles. ;-0

John Fountain is a freelance copywriter.

Follow @fountainjohn

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