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  • Steve Sult

So, WTH happened to creative directors?

Updated: Jul 9

I’ll be the first to raise my hand and agree, yep, the “old-school” Creative Director is waning, quickly, quicker than the old-school CDs want to admit. There are now so many more people in the field who call themselves “creative director” than there was 25 years ago. You have your: digital CDs; social media CDs;“content” CDs;“ native” CDs; “marketing” CDs (wtf is that?); and, yes, lots and lots of young CDs at publisher creative studios who are “creative directors” by title only, kids who have no training and no business being in the discipline of advertising creativity.

Years ago a good friend and a damned fine creative director from the writing side gave me his take over a couple of beers, "A creative director is an intuitive and charming interloper, who has not only mastered the ability to distinguish the good ideas from the bad ones that are conjured between his or her own ears but also between the ears of others on his team". I add, the job requires the ability to inspire others to greatness, fighting off "philistine ad goofs” in his own ranks who lack the guts to embrace something new and brilliant, and to sell good ideas, with verve and panache, to people who might not otherwise know the difference.”

My take on the role of creative director

My role models for a good creative director – a creative director worthy of the title - taught me how to explain the marketing to the creatives in a way that makes them believe that not only is there a solution out there, but that they are the only ones who can figure out where it is.

But that’s only half the job. Because a good creative director can also explain the solution to the marketers in a way that reveals how the pictures and words that the art directors and copywriters (in some instances, account supervisors) have fought battles over actually solve the business problem threatening the client.

I was convinced then, and still, believe a good creative director can look at a bad idea and see the kernel of genius inside it. A great creative director can figure out how to refocus the energies of the team on that kernel. And a brilliant creative director can see an idea that everyone – including the client - is excited about, and understand that there’s really nothing sustainable there and that it should be abandoned now. And do it in a way that makes everyone inspired to run down another path in the process.

Beginning with this article and over the next few weeks, I’m going to highlight some of the campaigns that were highly successful as each of the marketers saw a return on their investment. I’ve had the distinct honor to work with talented art directors, writers, production managers, account supervisors, photographers, illustrators, and best of all, daring and supportive clients over the years, and wish to recognize their contributions. For most, they’ve moved forward (literally) others retired, may be reaping the benefits of independent freelance careers or, have taken the plunge and hung a shingle of their own. They’ve contributed a great deal to me professionally and I’ve taken a bit of each of them with me as important learning experiences. For that, I remain grateful.



Client: Glaesel Stringed Instruments

Agency: Todd Allen Design, Inc

Creative Direction: Steve Sult

Writer: Tom Helderman

Art Direction: Todd Allen, S. Jeffery Prugh

Digital Design Artist: Phil Goodhew

Photographer: John Tirotta

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