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I Got Promoted to Creative Director and Instantly Became an Asshole

3 min read

I'm Jeremy Carson, and this is everything I wish I knew about the advertising and creative industry when I got started. And everything I'm discovering as a Creative Director today.
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Now, this isn't going to be a long post, but it's an important one for anybody with the drive, dream, and desire to become a creative director.

Because nobody tells you this stuff. Everyone looks at the role of Creative Director and thinks, "Now I'll be able to control everything. Now I'll be able to do everything exactly the way I want to. The way it should be done!"

Then you get there and it's a rude awakening. Of course there's the politics and bullshit. But when it comes to the work itself, you need to quickly realize a couple things.

These are the quickest and hardest lessons you'll have to learn.

Direct the Creative, Don't Do it

When I first started out as a creative, I looked at my creative director and thought, "Wow, he doesn't do anything, does he?"

I mean, that's what most people think: the higher up in the ranks you are, the less work you do. And that's kinda true. But there's more to it.

As you break away from the ranks of Senior Creative, and push past Associate Creative Director, into the world of Creative Director, you definitely do less work. But most creatives equate doing the work with being responsible for it. And that's where you have to change.

Now, your job is to direct the creative, not do the creative.

You can't lock yourself in a room for hours and emerge with a brilliant idea, like you did before. Now you have to help guide others to the solution. Even if you don't know what that solution is. And you shouldn't; that's what your team is there for.

But that also doesn't mean to spoon feed your solution to them. Sure, if you have a nugget of a thought, send it their way and have them figure it out. But don't force your creative upon your team.

Because being responsible for the creative doesn't mean you did it. Unfortunately, when you are responsible for it, you have to make the hard decisions...

You'll Have to Be the Bad Guy (or Gal)

Remember being a young creative? You had a project, a big one, where you needed to pull a few all-nighters. Probably even a couple weekends got eaten up. Then, in the moment of truth, you put your work in front of your creative director…

And they killed it.

You hated them for that. I mean, how could they kill something you put your heart and soul into? Something that stole precious hours of your youth? They took all that hard work and said it was for nothing!

Guess what? Now you're going to have to do that.

Sure, everyone thinks that they won't. You tell yourself, "When I'm a creative director, I'll never do that to my team!" I know I told myself that. Yet I've found myself doing the exact thing I swore I never would.

It's because I didn’t realize that there are times when I'd have to do that. It's not like you want to. But sometimes, your team misses the mark. Or they fall in love with a solution that's just plain wrong. And guess who has to be the bad guy or gal? You.

Because remember: you're responsible for the creative.

You're also responsible for your team, though.

Director of Creative and of Creatives

It's a delicate balance of figuring out how to direct both the creative and the creatives that work for you.

Honestly, it's something I'm still learning: how to inspire them to take that same passion they had for an idea that was wrong, and push it into something that has a chance of working.

But for now, it's still fresh in my mind: that feeling of making something great. I still love making things, but now it's not my hands that make it. It's my teams'. I want to make sure they know that my job is to help them do that, not get in their way.

So, sometimes I'm going to be a bridge, getting them to the place they need to go. But othertimes, I'm a dam, stopping them in their tracks and redirecting them somewhere else.

In the end, I hope they know to just go with the flow. And I'll do my best to keep them afloat.

Thanks for reading!

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