PERSPECTIVE: Managing a team of creatives shouldn't be as bad as all that

Creative directors of top agencies in London are about to discover what it's like to be Jeremy Dale, the marketing director of Orange with a big account burning a hole in his pocket - because they're likely to Get The Call. Two of the top five agencies - Lowe and Ogilvy & Mather - are looking for creative directors, so anyone who isn't a universally derided cast-iron failure is getting their head hunted at the moment.

BMP DDB too has agreed to part company with Larry Barker though it has promoted from within and is not looking outside. But overall, demand for creative directors is high because supply is low.

The grim truth is that fewer and fewer talented creatives want to be a creative director. Imposing some form of order and discipline on a group of disorderly and undisciplined personalities is now considered one of the more thankless jobs in advertising. Creative departments, if they are any good, will have their fair share of nonconformists and anarchists and many feel daunted by the required combined talents of wet nurse and prison warden that it takes to deal with them. And that's before relationships with clients, account people and planners are considered.

These suspicions have been confirmed over the years by the growing number of creative directors who quit to return to writing or directing ads - Chris Palmer, Mark Denton, Graham Fink and so on - and the others who yearn to stop paper pushing in favour of saying "action" and "cut" a lot.

But the things that make the job seem bad from the outside can sometimes turn out to be easily dealt with. Take the solemn admonishment that once you start creative directing you have to stop creating. Well, you can do that if you want, but you can also write or art direct the occasional ad too. Better still if you resist the temptation to snaffle the best briefs.

There is another thing that helps explain why the job of creative director is not as smelly as it seems. But I warn you that it's vague and highly unscientific and can't be listed on a balance sheet.

It's about the chance to change or build a culture. Consider the cycle of agency life: people come and go at even the very best agencies all the time, clients come and go even faster, economic cycles play havoc, premises, logos and corporate images change too. What stays is the culture.

Defining that is the duty of the person driving the creative product working in partnership with the agency management.

The crucial point is that people need guidance and support to succeed as a creative director. The IPA already runs reportedly excellent courses in this area and there are some joint IPA/D&AD initiatives in the pipeline which will be very welcome. Creative directing should really be like editing a great magazine - people should be queuing up to take your job, not running away from it.

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