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What are some signs your creative director is bad at being a creative director?

likesmart
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You never know what they want.

They never know what they want.

You leave creative reviews confused.

The work gets worse the longer its worked on.

They deliver feedback that contradicts what they told you last round.

You work weekends because they can’t make up their mind.

likesmart

Contradictions can be a sign of new information. Being willing to change your mind is often braver than sticking to your guns on something that you later learn to be a bum steer.

It can also be indecisiveness. Hahaha.

smart

I am sure that I suck at my job at times. It’s not crystal clear how to direct my teams towards the golden light of a great idea that lands the brief and sells great work. But, I always listen to my teams, ask for their feedback on briefs, work one-on-one to give solid, actionable advice on scripts, boards and copy. I am always available, day or night, in a coma or in transit. I respect the hell out of our Juniors, Seniors, and ACDs. Sometimes sh*t happens and a client goes rogue or a hotshot freelance team comes in and takes over a brief - and that is difficult and trauma-inducing for all. But please know the most Creative Directors got here after many many years of putting in the hard, futile, oft-thankless work. And my job now is to do everything I can to support my team’s ideas, make them bulletproof, and get them sold and produced. I may not do this correctly every single day, but that is what drives me. I could give a shit about awards or personal glory, it’s advertising. If my team is fulfilled and motivated I am doing my job.

likeuplifting

Hear hear!! 🥳

like
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Micro managing and not being able to give CLEAR creative direction.

likehelpful

All jokes aside I think Mo, from Mojo supermarket said this perfectly in a podcast. Day one you’re trained to compete, you’re always competing with people from your own departments, for the best brief, and for a seat at the table. Then one day out of nowhere you become a manager and you’re supposed to make those same people better but you don’t cause you’re still competing and that’s why the basis of this industry is broken. I dare to say 90% of CDs are bad. Because we are not very good at teaching our people how to be managers and there’s no accountability on that front. It’s just about being a good creative. We might think that’s a small thing, but the impact that bad managers have on our industry is tremendous.

likesmarthelpful

My company splits management and creative direction. So as a creative director I have no direct reports or management responsibilities. Initially I thought it was dumb as hell, but I do think it’s probably for the best because most CDs, myself included, would not make very good managers. It will only suck when I want to leave to go somewhere else and have zero management experience.

“Keep going” “keep pushing” period.

likefunny

“Keep going” means “Don’t stop at this first idea. Intentionally push yourself to think of 10 more totally different ideas.”

The dreaded “keep going” feedback exists because lot of people stop too early. They stop at their first decent idea and then call it a day in order to avoid the discomfort of writer’s block. You’re supposed to keep going, push through that block, and not stop until you have several good ideas. The reason is it gets the low-hanging fruit out of the way, and the newer ideas are always better.

That is what “keep going” means. I can see how it’s confusing to someone who doesn’t know this process, though.

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You’re more confused after working with them than before.
They blame others for issues or act like they can’t solve any problems themselves.
Indecisiveness.
If they’re generally mean.

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The first sentence.

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“I’ll know it when I see it”

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You ever open Slack, click on their name and think to yourself “I really don’t wanna show them my work”?

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I used to work with one who’d put the team through hours of brainstorming and concepting, only to pick his own ideas every time. I thought I was imagining it until other co-workers also noticed.

likefunny

That’s why I put my team through only one hour brainstorm before picking my own ideas!

likefunnysmarthelpful

They talk with creatives on pushing back against the client on a decision and promise to help defend it—then the meeting comes, they do a COMPLETE flip and please the clients and ruin everything. Makes the creatives lose trust.

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Sometimes new information and being able to change your point of view without considering it a knock to your pride/ego will end in that result.

Sometimes you have to go with what you know, until you learn something new.

Nothing dumber than learning new info that could change the POV and sticking to your guns because #feelings

Clarity, focus, forward motion is what I strive for or look for. If they can't hit those 3, confusion, do-overs, spin, burn out.

likesmart

Being a CD is actually harder than you may think. Not saying there aren’t bad ones out there because there are but, it’s also on you and how you take feedback. How you present your work, how clear and on brief it is, and how “fully-baked” it is when asking for feedback. If you’re asking them to weigh in when you don’t even have it all completely figured out then you’re not going to like what they have to say.

likesmart

Yes, it is a broad statement but mostly accurate. American CDs aren’t created equal because they are promoted so quickly and lack the experience to do the job. They think it’s the frickin’ Colosseum; thumbs up or down. Review over.

Creatives working in the US really need sales game, which shouldn’t be the case. CDs aren’t clients.

likefunny

You pitch done ideas and they call them out. Then they throw in their own. They adjust your scripts and make them simpler and easier to understand. Hate that!

likefunny

It takes a huge amount of self-awareness to bury any subconscious preference for your own ideas.

like

a hot request came to the team one time and it was chaos - and my CD responded in all caps to the email thread, “WHOS DIRECTING THE CREATIVES RIGHT NOW??”…

i wish i was kidding

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That was about the agency talent show. Worst performance of Les Mis ever.

likefunny

Okay, anyone reading this, name what you think are the top five qualities a CD should have. Genuinely curious to see what y’all think.

likeuplifting

Constructive Criticism.
An open mind.
Patience.
Critical thinking.
Ability to recognise a seed of an idea and nurture the team to make it a good one.

I wish the job only required 5 qualities.

like

Too many rounds of feedback from Acct/Client & Creative is silo'd off from the rest of the departments instead of everyone working together as a team.

like

In my experience, usually a dude who’s mid-to-late 40s+, was in college in the mid-90s, has a beard, wears ball caps all the time, and thinks the world of the Beastie Boys. If I see that, everything else everyone mentioned follows suit.

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My CD is guilty of all the above and I’m ready to leave the chaos.

The list of comments here is long, so obviously I’m a bit late to this party. But I feel it needs to be said that the reason we don’t have enough great CDs is because agencies rarely hire for those skills and barely train anyone to be a good CD. We hire people with great creative skills, reward them for those skills, then one day promote them, expecting them to be great leaders. Some have had the initiative to teach themselves. Some succeed. But as we read in this thread, many (perhaps most) are clueless. It’s a very difficult transition to go from the one with the great ideas to the one who helps others become great. We all have horror stories. We can all complain. But that won’t solve anything. What is the fix?

A toxic CD is always a red flag. I worked for a CD who always told us to ask questions in meetings. I asked what I thought was a good question about strategy and she snapped that I should have known the answer and what a dumb question that was. She then asked the same question 2 days later.

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