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I just started a new job with a really tough creative director. I’ve gotten lots of “this is completely wrong” calls and emails. How do I keep from feeling like a failure?

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This is a terrible creative director. “This is wrong” is terrible feedback. I suggest you purchase and read Mike Montiero’s books “Design Is A Job” and “You’re My Favorite Client,” as they’ll help you understand what good, actionable feedback is so you can ask probing questions to help guide your terrible creative director. You are going to have many terrible bosses. One day, when you are the boss, remember this and be a good one. And the next time this terrible CD calls you and says, “It’s all wrong!” you think but do not say, “What a hack.” Courage my friend. Hang in there.

likesmart

Drum roll hi-hat.

Deep down you really know if you need to get your act together or if you really bring it. Also, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion about the work from peers or other CDs you admire. This may put you at ease or give you more clarity on what you need to work on.
I’ve utilized my senior creative network a lot over the past couple of years. It’s helped.

Always be open to growing and criticism.

likehelpful

Now I wanna know where you work

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I’m working on a lot of good stuff and definitely learning a ton, so I want to stick it out. Just need some ways to keep morale up.

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Their job is to direct you creatively. It’s in their title. I’d ask for specific feedback such as :

- the humor is off ( do you want more west wing quippy humor or more dumb & dumber? South Park satire? Etc)

I’d be wary if they keep going this route it’s like they want you to read their mind. Dangerous position to be because they can just axe you. Ask for specifics.

likehelpful

still show enthusiasm and always ask them for feedback. eventually you will learn what clicks with them, and in turn they will learn to trust you.

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it's easier said than done, but just remember to not take it personally. the work we do is subjective.

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Use more jargon that they won’t understand like “purchase behavior “ and VSCO girls.

funny

Attention VCSO girls: please ignore the fact that ad guys are co-opting the language you borrowed from other community. We’re just dialing in now so PLEASE don’t do a MySpace on us. Pretty please.

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I'd reach out to some of the senior people on the team. Likely he's tough on everyone and they've been through the wringer with him too. They may be able to give tips on what he likes and what to avoid. At the end of the day, it's a j.o.b. not an f.u.n. so focus on what you can control and influence and leave the rest to the cosmos.

As for morale booster ... if you're still getting good things he believes in you.

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Are you following the creative brief? Feedback should be tied to the objectives within the brief. Let the CD point to how you missed the written objectives.

Some people don't know how to write a brief. They want you to be psychic and get what's in their heads because they can't communicate or don't want to be held accountable by writing it in a brief.

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Been there. It’s a rough spot to be in. People say a lot of mean things in this business and disguise it as “being direct”. Hold your head high. And work at it. If you can develop a strong peer group at the agency—they’ll help tell you work needs work, before this CD gets to poo all over it.

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Additional Posts (overall)

Just had the most cringey phone interview 😞

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I’m starting to get staffed in more CD-level roles and floundering…I need creative director bootcamp. I don’t know how to ask the right questions, develop a creative process, structure a team, or even trust my own judgement on creative anymore. I’ve learned a bit from other CDs but they tend to be so high-level their skillsets aren’t as applicable since I still get in the weeds as an ACD. How can I learn this stuff without asking my manager for help every time I have to lead a team?

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likehelpful

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I'm currently at a smaller shop and we do some pretty fun work. I like the folks and the opportunities coming my way (even if they might not have the biggest budgets, we have some fun brands + briefs). That said, it doesn't have great name recognition on a national scale + I worry that, the longer I stick around, the more limited my options might be.

I'd be grateful for advice or clarity here 🙏

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Could a CD from Droga give me some notes on my book?

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