The tiny, frail, bird-like account executive; the booming, mighty, walrussy chairperson; the harassed production wonk; the languidly tortured art director; what do they all have in common? A powerful desire to get the best out of their creative director.
How may they do this?
It’s often a question of approach. Charging into the CD’s office red-faced and shouting ‘It’s all gone wrong!’ may not generate the ideal response. Equally the ‘I’m really sorry to disturb you, I know how busy you are, but…’ method can prove just as counter-effective.
In my hundreds of years (well a quarter century) of experience (ten of those years as a creative director of one kind or another) the best possible way to get your money’s worth out of people like me is, despite our protestations, to keep us constantly informed. There is nothing worse than coming into a job that one knows nothing about when it’s too late to make any meaningful difference and without the background one needs to make a considered call.
Weekly meetings to schedule the work in intelligently, a daily update on the progress of important projects, contact reports galore. He or she may well complain bitterly about the torrent of extraneous information distracting him or her from their purity of purpose but secretly they DO VERY MUCH want to know what the client said in the cab or over lunch and they hate to be out of the loop when it comes to MI.
Yet all of this is without purpose unless you talk to your CD. He or she needs to know what matters to the client, what matters to you. The only way you can get your CD to do what you want – and more – is to make a friend of him or her. Your collective goals are identical: happy clients, successful campaigns, a profitable business and lots of awards.
But your daily round of work is very different. Understanding this is the key to the relationship. You may think your CD is staring out of the window or leafing idly through a painfully obscure or fashionable magazine or arguing pointlessly with writers and art directors BUT rest assured, dear reader, that he or she is probably ‘working’. Because the curse of the creative person is that the name for a vital, new app, or the photographic approach for a new campaign or the exact turn of phrase to turn incoherence into coherence is as likely to strike your CD in Sainsbury’s or a hoochie-coochie club as it is while he or she is sat at the no doubt very agreeably appointed desk you feel that your hard work is paying for.
More than anyone else in the agency, your CD is likely to be thinking about your business for most of his or her waking life and a considerable proportion of their sleeping life too, which may explain the psychedelic campaign for cheesy-puffs and the Lady Gaga home insurance endorsement.
Arrogant, easily distracted, pompous, pretentious, prone to irrelevant tantrums your CD may be, but unless a terrible mistake has been made, he or she is CD for a reason. That reason will be to do with the fact that he or she is ultimately responsible for the product that we make; the creative work. If you care about your business, you should care about your creative product. It is, after all, the only tangible output of our peculiar business.
So remember that your CD’s goal is the same as your own even if the methods may be startlingly different. And talk to your CD, even if it is through gritted teeth. Tell him or her what’s going on. Share even the esteemed client’s most irritating apercus.
Talk to your CD whether he or she likes it or not. Because when you do, either the work will get better or your CD will have no excuses.
Jonathan Spooner is creative partner at Tangible
The Lovin’ Spoonful, chapter one