For all its art, creative direction comes down to answering a few questions.
October 16, 2009
What’s the big idea?
A reader asked me to write about creative direction…
Most people consider judging and improving creative work as the most important aspect of being a creative director. But a good CD must also be proficient in resource management and new business. In addition, he or she had better be at least as capable as the best creative person in their department. In other words, if you’re a CD-copywriter than you’d better still be able to write good copy. That’s my opinion.
Still, judging work is at the core of creative direction.
When evaluating creative work the first thing I ask is: Do I get it? Do I understand the messaging? If a campaign idea is baffling in any way then it has a serious problem. You’d be surprised how often even talented people get lost in the kitchen, serving up mystery meat. Tweaking is likely not the antidote. The creative algebra must add up. Every creative idea is an argument for its benefactor. Is it a valid one?
Before falling in love with an idea I check its credentials. I do not want to be hurt later! Is the work on strategy? If the work is not then it must be made to fit or abandoned. That or the strategy must be reexamined. We cannot expect to make good work if strategy and creative are at odds. Seems obvious but, again, you’d be surprised.
The third and final criteria: Do I adore the concept? Does it make me want to run and show my client tomorrow? Am I excited? Am I jealous? This, obviously, is the filter everyone points to as most critical. Most creative directors assume if they love something it must be great. Fair enough. After all, we are paid to make such assumptions!
But we must be careful. (See above paragraphs.) Not all great ideas reveal themselves at first blush. Those that do are precious jewels, well worth coveting. Yet, many ideas are diamonds in the rough. Part of a CD’s job is seeing the gem underneath the debris.
And just because I don’t like an idea does not mean it’s bad. As in all conflicts, when one is frustrated by something our first impulse is toward fight or flight. Again, be careful. Sometimes it is not the idea that is flawed. We may be missing something or distracted. Maybe we are at odds with the messenger. Perhaps we are just being arrogant. Am I giving work a fair shake? Am I looking for the beauty within?
For me creative direction 101 works in three parts:
1) Do I get the idea?
2) Is it on strategy?
3) Do I adore it?
Point number 3 gets all the love. But the first two are critical. There are numerous variables: intuition, experience and talent but for me it really comes down to answering the above questions…in that order.