Think of some successful creative pairings. Abbott Mead Vickers
BBDO’s Tom Carty and Walter Campbell, say, or Robert Campbell and Mark
Roalfe of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe. Or Will Awdry and Rosie Arnold
at Bartle Bogle Hegarty. Now, try to remember which one is which. Is
Carty the art director or is it Campbell? Does Arnold do the writing or
is she in charge of visuals?
Tricky isn’t it? Not since the likes of Tony Brignull, Dave Trott and
Tim Delaney have creatives been famous for a particular discipline.
It seems the inhabitants of today’s creative departments are less likely
to clarify exactly who does what in their partnership, insisting, with
an admirable generosity of spirit, that they ’both do everything’, or
perhaps individually claiming, ’I do a bit of art direction but I’m
technically the writer.’ Many creatives even demand that both names be
listed alongside both disciplines when it comes to credits in Private
View or the D&AD annual.
In addition, there appears to be an increasing trend for creatives to be
working on their own, effectively partnerless and doing two jobs in one,
while more and more new partnerships are made up of two art directors,
or two writers, in what seems to be a quiet revolution of creative
department working practices.
Richard Flintham, officially the art directing partner of Andy McLeod at
BMP DDB, comments: ’I’m only doing art directing for about 5 per cent of
my time. The currency is ideas and 95 per cent of the time I’m thinking
of ideas for ads. I often might have an idea for a headline and Andy
might think of a picture.’
His view is supported by Don Smith, an art director at Faulds
Advertising who, together with his partner, Ged Edmondson, won gold at
the Aerials radio awards earlier this year for an Irn-Bru
’You could ask what art direction there is in a radio ad, but until you
sit down and do an ad there is really no distinction between what the
copywriter and the art director does. At the ideas stage there is no
difference between us: we are both just talking about the best solution
to the brief.
I do not become an art director until I have to art direct the idea,’ he
Jon Canning, the new creative director of Court Burkitt & Company, has
worked on his own for the past 19 months. He says: ’I effectively do
both jobs. The skills are really interchangeable. I trained as an art
director but then I became a writer. In any case, if you have a partner
you can easily learn about the other half of the job.’
One explanation for the change in the way creatives are working is that
the advent of technology and the Mac culture has, in the case of art
directors, meant the basic skills of being able to draw are no longer
The focus for today’s art director is being able to think up ideas,
rather than being a dab hand with a magic marker.
Another theory is that there are more young people in senior positions,
all introducing fresh approaches to the challenge of how best to devise
Keith Courtney, creative director of Leagas Shafron Davis, says: ’So
many young people are now running advertising businesses and they tend
to be a bit more forward-thinking and think outside the box. I have
young teams who really don’t distinguish between who does what, and I
don’t even know which is which.’
Courtney welcomes the development, adding that creatives can be used far
more efficiently when they are not pigeon-holed, and that the art
director would get ’pissed off pretty quickly if you just used him as a
Given how increasingly difficult it is to get into advertising, the
pressure seems to be on colleges to produce multi-skilled creatives
rather than specialists.
Smith comments: ’Colleges have to set you up with as diverse a range of
capabilities as they can. You are more marketable if you are good at
everything and people want to become creatives rather than specifying
either copywriters or art directors.’
This seems a far cry from the 60s when the copy department and the art
department were housed in separate parts of an agency and writers would
hand their scripts over to the artists, barely exchanging a word in the
process. Some purists mourn the passing of those days, claiming the two
skills are quite distinct and should remain so. Nevertheless, it would
seem that labels still have their uses.
Flintham admits: ’In any good team the roles really should blur, but I
still like being called an art director. Within an agency, it helps to
have a label.’ Courtney adds: ’I may use the titles when the ad is in
production and you have a practical need, say, for the art director to
come down to the studio.’ Clearly defining the roles also aids
accountability and means that someone takes responsibility for a
specific aspect of an ad, observers claim.
Perhaps the new wave of creative talent will eventually do away with the
separate disciplines altogether and alternative ways of working will
begin to be the norm, but it seems there’s some life left in the
traditional pairing of creatives.