Alex Bogusky said that to be a creative director, you must be crazy – insane-like crazy. I agree. Why on earth would you want to take on the pressures, paranoia and sociopathy of an entire team of creatives? And yet we do. We embrace them. Encourage them. Occasionally heckle, provoke and hopefully inspire them. And we never give up. Ever. Not for a coupon ad. Not for a retail price point ad. Not for a service, packaged good or TV listing ad. Then why is it we creative directors find ourselves in the very uncreative position of managing the middle? On the one side you have your corporate masters … and on the other, those fresh young faces, looking to you – that’s right, YOU mate, to lead, inspire and guide them. I really do believe that a great creative idea is the tennis ball we dogs chase. It’s a part of our DNA. It’s what we do. It’s what gets ME out of bed in the mornings. I believe with all my heart that great creative breaks through. It gets noticed. It sells. And … it makes careers in any industry that relies on great work to spread the word. And yet, as a creative director, I’m surrounded by people who don’t care. People who just want to make deadline. People who think a literal approach IS great creative. Don’t get me wrong – these are nice, well-meaning people. But they are too busy counting the support points and worrying about what the client is going to say. Or which concept provides an easy route towards a fast approval to really care about a big idea. As far as they’re concerned, all that creative rubbish is getting in the way of their next promotion. And that’s too bad. But it’s my job to manage the middle. That nasty place between the creative solution and the sold ad. It’s a place that can best be described as Soul Destroying, population: 1. Every day, as a creative director you have to fight the good fight. You stick up for those innocent, unformed ideas that one day just might grow up to be something great. You do battle against the ignorant. Cross swords with the idea killers. But you know that you’re not going to win every battle, and you can’t possibly fall on your sword over every idea. And those ideas that you lose … are painful. And sad. And soul destroying. And like Bogusky said – you have to be insane to do this job. To fight the good fight every day. To continue to believe in great ideas – to believe in the very goodness and rightness of them. And to never give up. No matter what. Because great creative directors are great because they’re stubborn. They don’t give an inch. They say that even a coupon ad has to be great – it has to be like no other coupon on the world has ever seen. Or maybe they’re just great politicians. Or great salespeople. And they tell us what we want to hear. Maybe there is no secret ingredient … just like Po finds out at the end of Kung Fu Panda. Maybe there’s just you, doing the best you can … avoiding the landmines, celebrating the ones that get past the goalie.
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