Today, the job of CD is very different from what it was ten years ago.
It has always been a mixture of the creative leader and the client-facing account man, but recently, in some cases, the latter appears to have grown to overcome the former.
The CDs of legend were creative mavericks whose spark of genius could take your decent effort and make it into a Pencil gathering classic. They were feared and admired, leaving the rest of the agency in their wake as they forged a path to brilliant work. Even the more even-tempered greats had an edge that would protect the end product from the wankers who would seek to damage it.
Now, many CDs have to go and hold the account team’s hand every time the ads have to be sold, just to make sure that they can get through the client intact, or less un-intact.
The financial imperative that I mentioned yesterday has now become so powerful that it rules all agency decisions. This means that the work must be sold first time (the longer it takes to sell an ad/answer a brief to the client’s satisfaction, the less money the agency makes) and more often than not, that means a capitulation of some kind. The CD is there to shield the work, but he had better not shield it too hard or he might annoy the client. Better to bend over early; after all, the end result is likely to be mediocre anyway, so why risk the cash?
So many CDs are under great pressure to avoid pissing off the client, which means that some of them have moved a little way down the scale away from ‘Creative Greatness That Took An Effort To Sell’ to ‘Creative Mediocrity That Didn’t Touch The Sides’. Of course, they want to make the best ads possible, but in many instances they do not have the power, position or backup that they used to have. As a result, ads can easily slip 10%, and it certainly feels like that is often the case.
The CD position (and I really have to emphasise that many CDs produce and foster excellent work despite the above) is supposed to be the end result of a career of creative brilliance.
Kind of odd then, that the job then requires many people to shed so much of that.
Hats off to the ones who make it work.