If you ever watched the hit television show Mad Men, then you know that back in the 60s it was possible to work your way up to creative director through simply yelling at assistants, drinking an Old Fashioned in their office all day, and sleeping on the couch when they were too hungover from the night before. At least, that’s the Hollywood version, as personified by the show’s main character, Don Draper.
Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately), those days are long gone and to be a successful creative director, it’ll take much more than a few stiff drinks and waiting around until you have an epiphany.
To help you out on your journey to becoming a great creative director, make sure that you follow these seven key steps.
As we just alluded to, in today’s world you won’t be promoted to creative director as easily as Don Draper. Instead, you’ll have to work your way through the ranks. Most creative director positions require 7-10 years of experience. Make sure that you use this time to learn everything you can about the creative industry, which includes finding a mentor. By speaking with someone who has more experience and knowledge than you within the creative field, your knowledge and expertise will grow faster.
When you’re stuck in a rut creatively, pull as many people as you can into one room and try one of these helpful creative exercises. Don’t be afraid to try something a little different and mix things up. When it comes to shifting consumer preferences in an evolving marketing landscape, sometimes you need to start by taking a trip down the rabbit hole to get to the really creative ideas.
Branching off the last step, being approachable and accessible is key to creating the type of environment where creatives thrive. For an example of how not to act as a creative director, look no further than the evil Dr. Kelso from the television series Scrubs, who doesn’t make time for the team and berates them when they are wrong.
You should try to make your schedule flexible so that you can meet with your team whenever issues arise. Being approachable is a huge part of your success as a creative director. Creatives love working in areas where they are encouraged to speak up and give their point of view. Always be willing to listen and even learn, especially after mistakes or failed campaigns. Taking stock of what went wrong and what went well will help you grow as a creative.
If you become a creative director, the VP of marketing or CEO has trusted you as the best person for the job. You will likely have a team of other talented creatives who are excellent at their positions. It’s important that you extend the trust of your superiors to those below you. Whereas some creative directors are inclined to do everything themselves or shut down ideas that they don’t agree with immediately. A workplace environment like this will not foster any creativity or encourage your team to think outside the box, which is what creatives should be doing. So, trust your team. They are talented individuals, and even if you don’t agree on everything, it will help bring forth new, innovative ideas.
No matter what our position is, we all have certain areas that we are exceptional at and that got us the job in the first place. However, we all also have areas that we could improve on as well. Sure, you can spend extra time improving yourself (and you should by the way), but you can also fill these skill gaps by hiring someone who excels in the area that you don’t. For example, let’s say you have trouble understanding a specific demographic, say 18-24-year-olds. It would be wise to hire someone on your team who has worked extensively with that demographic at a previous position to improve your team.
One of the most challenging aspects of a creative position is to make sure that everything across the board for a brand is consistent. With many different logos, color palettes, and other creative assets to keep track of, it can be a handful. BUT HAVE NO FEAR, MEDIABEACON IS HERE!!! Digital asset management (DAM) tools like MediaBeacon help you store, manage, and track your digital assets so every department has access to the approved images and videos they need to be consistent with their messaging.
In the United States, we are big fans of working. In fact, the U.S. is one of the most overworked developed nations in the world. For creatives, this isn’t always a good thing. When your team and yourself are pressed for ideas and need to come up with answers quick, the result will be lower quality campaigns and strategies. Make sure to dedicate the necessary time to each client or strategy and don’t take on too much in a short amount of time.
The creative director position and others in the creative department should be less of a burnout and more of a productive, yet laid-back, environment. That doesn’t mean you won’t have those weeks where crunch-time is all the time, but try and make sure that the workflow is steady but not overly rushed.