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How to Deal With the Thankless Job of Being Both a Creative Manager and a Working Creative

3 min read

Jeremy Carson is an Associate Creative Director, working in the advertising and design industries for over 15 years.

I'm learning that being an Associate Creative Director puts you in a tight spot. When do you do the work? And when do you manage the work?

I don’t want to step on the toes of the creatives working under me. But the work...it’s my (and my partner's) responsibility.

I’m sure every one of my creatives has thought, “Just let me do my fucking job.”


My Creative Director told me once, it’s the difference of depth vs. width. Creative directors go wide, art directors and copywriters go deep. ACDs do both.

Riiiight...but what does that mean?



Going Deep

Let's start at the bottom. As an intern or junior, you don’t get a lot of responsibility; you work on the lower-level executions of a project. And as you move up to a senior position, you dedicate yourself to the entire project.

In advertising, we call this "getting in the weeds." You're working hard in the dirt, while the overarching concepts are up in the clouds.

But, as you advance to up through the senior level, you don’t leave the little stuff behind. You simply pick up more along the way. You handle the entire depth of the campaign.

However, that’s only one campaign. Your focus is narrow and deep.

The Wide Net

Now let’s think about the Creative Director role. I talked about their responsibilities in a past article about getting title promotions. Well, since they’re overseeing entire accounts, which usually means several different projects, something’s gotta give.

Creative Directors can’t get stuck in the weeds.

You’ll hear how CDs don’t want to get in the weeds on a project. Basically, it means that their job isn’t to be involved in the deep details. Instead, they need to stay in the clouds and focus on the overarching concept, going very shallow in their understanding of the day-to-day.

That's because they have a wide range projects to oversee, so they sacrifice deep understanding.



Deep and Wide

Then we get back to the ACD position. That's where I am, and I’m feeling like Britney Spears: “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman.” I oversee a bunch of projects (but not as much as a Creative Director). And I also need to have a deep understanding of every one of those projects (but not as much as a Senior would).

So, the question is, how deep do I go? When do I get in the weeds and do the work? When do I stay in the clouds and oversee what others do?

I Have No Idea

There’s an interesting thought…

Most of the time, I have no idea what I’m doing. But I’m not the only one.

Learning to balance that is all part of the process of moving up. It's one of those things that, no matter how much you're told or you read about it, you can only figure it out by diving in. Eventually you figure it out. Hopefully.

But when I do figure out when to step away and when to intervene, then it allows my creatives to breathe, while still knowing I support them.

Thanks for reading!

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