The executive creative director (or ECD) is the head honcho as far as the creative team is concerned. The person behind the curtain engineering the creative identity of a company and facilitating the adoption of that identity throughout all media channels, executive creative directors work with stakeholders and other executive-level management to determine how the company should be represented to the public.
As their title implies, executive creative directors are incredibly creative and need to be able to think of innovative new strategies that specific teams then work to make happen. They have to juggle a thousand things at once and need that rare balance of experience and natural creative flair. In short, if you work in the creative industries in any capacity, they are the person you eventually want to be.
Job Description and Benefits
Below the CCO is where you’ll generally find an executive creative director in a typical company hierarchy. They are responsible for developing the overall creative strategy for a brand. They stay up-to-date with products & services in order to ensure that their team is executing effectively.
Executive creative directors and creative directors sound very similar, though they have different roles in the creative process commonly used in marketing. Executive creative directors work closely with clients to create an original idea, while creative directors work towards the development of the idea.
Within an agency environment, an executive creative director will speak directly with clients to learn about their needs. Once they have a good understanding of their client’s requirements, they’ll translate information to be executed by creative teams.
Executive creative directors are responsible for providing creative insights to the company in designing and developing their projects. Their main responsibility is to design high-level concepts for the company or its clients (internal or external), and creating designs as per the client's requirement.
Most of the time, executive creative directors are engaged in creating and developing the overall creative strategy, they also are responsible for handling the recruitment and management systems.
The responsibilities of an executive creative director could include:
- Directing the creative functionalities of concept development, collaborating with team members, creating a work environment, meeting work expectations, and discussing team goals and achievements
- Ensuring the effective maintenance of creative functionalities, developing the creative products as per the market standards, maintaining the quality of creative work projects, and operating the designing firm in a profitable manner
- Providing strategic solutions to the company and clients considering their market stakes involved in creating a brand reputation for their organisation
- Accommodating the client's needs and requirements as per the marketing goals and strategies, creating unique brand promotion concepts in accordance with the client's promotional scheme, prioritising the creative work as per the client's demands, and translating the client's profile into a creative visual experience
- Leading the creative team for processing the client's projects in a specified manner, assigning duties to the creative/account management team, and leading the team in carrying out post-production activities like video graphics, motion graphics, interactive web integration, and web marketing
- Developing and writing the plans of promotional campaigns, preparing it's detailed presentation report, and assigning various responsibilities to team members for carrying out the promotional campaign effectively
- Keeping track of the latest advancements in the technologies used in creative direction and understanding the progress in marketing technologies like digital marketing technology
- Collaborating with working partners for strategising the progress of creative functionalities, making relevant changes for competing with market standards, focusing on threats from the competitors, and developing the strategic plans for combating the threats
- Directing activities for professional development of organisational team members, conducting creative workshops for staff members, implementing corrective strategies in promotional activities, and recommending promotion of team members based on their productivity
- Taking important decisions that ensure the organisational profitability without compromising the creative quality of the project, directing constant improvement in creative quality, and enhancing the designing capability for accomplishing the task
- Conducting market study for understanding the competitors' creative art, planning, and preparing a strategic developmental plan for creating the agency's marketing strategies, branding functionalities, and business development plans
- Managing external agents like photographers, printers, freelancers, web developers, etc., and coordinating them according to the work of art directors, copywriters, and other post-production workers
An executive creative director should have:
- An understanding of various production procedures, computer software and web design principles
- Working knowledge of photography, typography, and other printing techniques
- Creativity, insightfulness, a unique understanding of the creative process
- Leadership and client facing qualities
- Be able to inspire a team
- Ability to marry up data and insights with creative output
There are usually just a handful of open executive creative director jobs in the UK on Creativepool, which reveals just how highly regarded a position it is. The position of executive creative director is saved for the person with a creative mind, who can merge authenticity with modernity. One is required to be innovative, creative, and tactful for carrying out the responsibilities effectively.
What is the work like?
The specific tasks of executive creative directors can vary greatly based on the specific industry and company where they work. However, based on our research of current job listings, most executive creative directors perform these core duties:
Direct Creative Operations - The main responsibility of the executive creative director is to direct all creative operations within a company, including marketing and design teams. They create and manage creative strategies to help improve and maintain the company image.
Create and Approve Marketing Campaigns - When the marketing department comes up with new marketing campaigns, they must be delivered to the executive creative director for approval. Once the executive creative director approves the campaign, the marketing team can begin implementing it. Executive creative directors may also create their own campaigns based on meetings with stakeholders and company executives.
Report Metrics to Stakeholders - Executive creative directors receive and analyze reports from marketing and design teams, and then create presentations based on those numbers. They give the presentation to company stakeholders and report on the overall performance of the marketing and design teams.
Manage Creative Department Budget - Executive creative directors are responsible for managing and overseeing the creative department’s budget. This includes creating and balancing the budget and delivering it to company stakeholders for approval.
Set and Track Department Goals - In order to properly track performance, executive creative directors create goals for the overall creative department. Throughout the year or quarter, they also track those goals to determine how well the department is performing.
Hours and Environment
When overseeing a creative team, the executive creative director must be able to work in a fast-paced environment and handle the duties of overseeing and assisting each member of the creative team. Executive creative directors maintain a typical full-time schedule with regular office hours of 9 to 6. However, they are also expected to attend evening functions and launches as well as work longer hours as project deadlines and pitch deadlines approach.
Executive creative directors spend a lot of time away from their office at meetings. A willingness to travel is assumed and they will be a frequent presence at networking events, industry trade shows and exhibitions.
Salary and other benefits
According to PayScale, executive creative directors can expect to make a median annual wage of $164,453. Executive creative directors who sit in the top 10% of their field make more than $275,000 per year, while those who sit in the bottom 10% make less than $99,000 per year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this job field will experience 9% growth over the next 10 years as companies continue to expand.
An executive creative director's salary can vary depending on several factors, including location, experience, and the size and stature of the company they work for. The average salary of an entry-level executive creative director starts from around $100,000 annually in the US, while experienced professionals can earn over $400,000 per year.
The average salary range in the UK is around £112,000 and ranges between £50,000 (at the bottom 10% of the scale) and £225,000 (at the top end of the scale).
Executive creative directors receive excellent benefits packages from their employers that usually include comprehensive health benefits along with vacation and sick time. Employers also usually give their executive creative directors performance-based bonuses.
Skills and Personal Qualities
An executive creative director must have:
- Leadership skills - Since executive creative directors lead a variety of different teams, they must be exceptionally skilled in leadership and organisation. They should know how to direct teams so they work together for a common goal
- Understanding - Executive creative directors should be intimately familiar with the customer experience and understand what makes a customer tick
- Knowledge - Executive creative directors need to determine if marketing campaigns will be successful, so they should have in-depth knowledge of current marketing trends
- Time management – In a world full of deadlines, executive creative directors should be able to manage their time efficiently. Their schedules are often full, and they need to be able to handle multiple projects at once
- Creativity - Executive creative directors should be creative and authentic in their beliefs. They are responsible for the company image, and customers should be able to see that authenticity
It is important for events designers to have an interest in:
- New technologies and software
- The creative industries
- Current affairs
- Global and industry-wide trends
- Recent design trends and production techniques
- Photography and the visual arts
- Pop culture, and counterculture
- The zeitgeist of social tastes and current affairs
- Current trends and techniques
The executive creative director role is an advanced one, and it requires a lot of skill and experience for success. Employers prefer to hire candidates who have graduate or postgraduate degrees and over 10 years of experience in the advertising, marketing or design fields. Successful executive creative directors know how to identify market trends and capitalise on them.
Entry for young people
Executive creative director jobs are, by definition, roles that require a certain level of seniority. As such, it's a role that is rarely, if ever, attained by recent graduates.
Entry for adults
Expert knowledge of the business side of advertising is a major plus. The best creative directors have elevated soft skills that enable them to inspire creativity and work well with different personality types, all while juggling various projects.
Ultimately, it may take a lot of work to break into executive creative direction. Identify the companies you most want to learn from and apply there. Then try your hand at a little bit of everything and work your way up the ranks when you’ve found your niche.
Executive creative directors should hold at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing or a related field. Graduate and postgraduate degrees are required if potential executive creative directors want to work for large companies.
At this point in their career, executive creative directors likely won’t receive or need to receive any further training. After all, this is an executive position, and as the title implies, it’s one that requires years of experience in management and creative departments.
Continuing professional development is important, especially keeping up to date with technological changes. Follow industry trends by reading the trade press. Most agencies offer training on the job but there are many other providers of development schemes.
The IPA offer the MBA-level IPA Excellence Diploma, which is aimed at those with three to five years of experience in the industry who want to develop a broader understanding of how brands work and create value for clients. The IPA also offers a range of short courses and seminars for experienced staff.
D&AD offers continuing professional development schemes. You can also showcase your work to gain industry status and foster networking opportunities at the annual CIM Marketing Excellence Awards.
Creative Direction in a Digital World by Adam Harrell - Creative Direction in a Digital World provides designers with the tools they need to craft compelling digital experiences across screens, devices and platforms. Readers will learn how to take a multi-disciplinary approach to digital creative direction that will help them uncover target audience insights, concept more creative campaigns, change consumer behaviour, and create more user-friendly digital experiences.
The Eye: How the World's Most Influential Creative Directors Develop Their Vision by Nathan Williams - They are often behind the scenes, letting their work take centre stage. But now Nathan Williams, founder and creative director of Kinfolk magazine and author of The Kinfolk Table, The Kinfolk Home, and The Kinfolk Entrepreneur—with over 250,000 copies in print combined—brings more than 90 of the most iconic and influential creative directors into the spotlight.
Book of Ideas - A journal of creative direction and graphic design by Radim Malinic - Book of Ideas is just that: an outpouring of what one creative director and designer has discovered from many years working in the strange and endlessly fascinating world of the creative industry.
This is Service Design Thinking by Marc Stickdorn - Service design is a bit of a buzzword these days and has gained a lot of interest from various fields. This book, assembled to describe and illustrate the emerging field of service design, was brought together using exactly the same co-creative and user-centred approaches you can read and learn about inside.
Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder - A handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models and design tomorrow's enterprises. Co-created by 470 "Business Model Canvas" practitioners from 45 countries, the book features a beautiful, highly visual, 4-colour design that takes powerful strategic ideas and tools, and makes them easy to implement in your organisation.