The tantrumy creative director. Anger is not passion especially when it’s choreographed.

March 18, 2013

Remind you of anyone in Adland?

A gathering of ad agency people –who shall go nameless- were talking about some of the rip roaring screaming matches that used to take place between their old creative director and, well, just about everyone at the agency. For example, an argument over production of a DM piece culminated in broken glass and a serious gash in said CD’s wrist. Blood was everywhere. “I guess he was just a passionate guy,” someone offered. “Or a prick.”

I’m going with the latter. Losing one’s temper over a piece of direct marketing –or any ad really- is just plain ridiculous. Mistaking gross behavior for passion is one of life’s great myths. Anger like that is a character defect. Period. That someone could get to physical violence over the manufacture of an ad… Crazy.

I brought the subject up later with an old pro at my agency. We agreed that anger has its place, especially for the impetuous young. But what if it’s just a charade? Maybe some of us act out not because we actually feel angry but because we think we’re supposed to. Because that’s what makes (us) passionate leaders. We are defending creativity!

Ad Agency or Reality TV set?

Most creative professionals (myself included) are egomaniacs with inferiority complexes. Having endured criticism for our “art” over and over again we lose perspective. We already crave respect and validation beyond what normal folks do. And now, being in a position of creative leadership, we demand it. Furthermore, I think some of us become high on our own vapors. It’s like the ad agency is a reality TV show and the “passionate creative director” one of its stars. Along with the “domineering project manager” and the “tyrannical President.” Like any reality TV star, he or she must develop a persona larger than life. Mild frustration won’t cut it. The delusional actor must be enraged. He or she must make an impression in order to be heard, to stand out, to star! His or her “brand” depends on it. After all, nobody watches reality TV for thoughtful conversations and mundane human interactions. Where’s the drama in that?

Without getting into an argument about reality TV, let’s just agree that the workplace is not it. Bigger than life “stars” in our business –if they exist- are best known for their work. Or should be. Being an exceptional asshole is not a legacy.

What do you think? Is it possible that the screamers are just doing it for show? Doesn’t make it right but it does make it easier to comprehend. How else do you explain spilled blood over a piece of DM?


4 Responses to “The tantrumy creative director. Anger is not passion especially when it’s choreographed.”

  1. Great post. In all my experience, the asshole’s have lacked talent and compensated by being bullies. Pretty much that simple. There’s nothing wrong with getting a bit vocal about what you believe in, I do it, but to be condescending and belligerent? I’ve learned the hard way it’s best to nip all that in the bud.

  2. Name withheld by request said

    A few months ago you mentioned a screamer who lost it and hit someone from a production company. These folks are not stars. They are megalomaniacal bullies, pure and simple.

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