What does a Creative Director actually do?

Sure, we’ve all heard of the Creative Director job title but do we really understand what it means? Not only is it a broad title, but when you also consider the sheer range of industries the title can exist in, it becomes even more confusing. But there are some essentials to the role. To find out what they are, we decided to ask two experts…

creative director, seven, michael booth,

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Up first is Kip Calderara, Creative Director at Eyes Wide Open, one of the largest marketing consultancies in the Thames Valley with clients that include Coca-Cola, Quaker, BMW, IBM and Nissan. He’s joined here by Michael Booth, Creative Director at Seven, who explains the role in a nutshell:

“I usually compare the role to the conductor of an orchestra or a film director,” he says. “You have to organise and fine tune all the individual talents to produce something unique which they couldn’t do individually, and be the one who has the overview and vision of the final idea to make sure it will appeal to the intended audience.”

With that said, let’s ask Michael and Kip to shed some light on the finer details…

What is your personal definition of the role of a Creative Director (CD) and why is it so important?

Kip Calderara (Creative Director, Eyes Wide Open): “This question asks for a book. Let’s stick with CD in the context of advertising comms. A good agency CD becomes involved with a marketing strategy that has been produced and refined by the planners, researchers and  marketers, and puts together a creative strategy that satisfies those planners, researchers, and so on. Then he or she politely ushers them out, closes the door, lets in the creative department and says: ‘What we’re going to do is this.’

“It isn’t simple or easy, turning months of meetings, graphs, analyses of stats and reports into 30 seconds of film, a single piece of artwork, or a logo, especially one that satisfies all the previous team members.”

Michael Booth (Creative Director, Seven): “The Creative Director is responsible for coordinating all the creative staff at a company (usually within a creative agency). This can include designers, writers, picture editors, producers, as well as choosing and employing the best freelance talent. The Creative Director brings together all these skills to develop creative solutions to briefs set by clients.”

What are the main responsibilities involved in the job?

Kip: “You become the Master of the Hunt for the Idea and must be able to pursue any number of dead ends in the search, to be ruthless with anything that falls short of the mark, and to be able to know in your gut that you’ve struck a seam. Sometimes that idea is not particularly clever or different, it just has to be the right one. Sometimes it’s so obvious you can miss it altogether. It’s not enough just to like something or think something will work – you have to know why; in Creative Direction the workings out are as important as the end result.”

Michael: “The role is strategic. You need to understand and interpret the needs of both the client and the brief, even when the clients themselves sometimes don’t know what they want. Design is all about solving problems with creativity, but you need to be aware of the needs of the brief above everything else.”

How do you know what’s a good idea and what isn’t?

Kip: “Trust the hairs on the back of your neck (even if there are precious few on the top of your head). If you have the ability to spot an idea, whether you’ve had it or it’s being pitched at you, let your hackles lead you on. If an idea comes to you right away, don’t let it go, park it. If you see another idea and it fits, nick it, but acknowledge the nick. BA once ran a campaign using their hostesses with the theme line, ‘I’m Mandy. Fly me’. Wall’s then ran a poster for their sausages with a huge banger on a fork under the headline ‘I’m meaty. Fry me’.”

Do you have any examples of really nailing a brief?

Michael: “A good example at Seven is the website we built and run for Fujitsu. It is a global content site aimed at Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and features articles about ideas and trends in the world of information technology, as well as video interviews with leading innovators and thinkers. It’s basically a magazine reinvented as a website, but taking advantage of the wider variety of media available (video, social, motion graphics, etc) to create richer, more engaging content.

“This meant leading a creative team that merged the best of graphic design, editorial, strategy, video, development, illustration and photography to create a website that was not only entertaining and innovative, but allowed Fujitsu to speak directly to an audience of the most powerful and influential potential customers in the world of IT. The success of the creative content of the site has meant that it is followed by the CIOs of companies such as Nike, Coca-Cola and Sony as well as leading influencers such as Seth Godin and Harper Reed. Check it out at i-cio.com.”

Inspired to take the step up to becoming a Creative Director? Start your search today.