To be an advertising creative, you have to be able to do the following things:
1. Come up with ideas.
2. Present those ideas to other people in such a way that they understand and are enthused.
3. Write scripts/descriptive paragraphs/headlines/copy.
4. Marshall and enthuse other creative people to create your vision.
5. Incorporate comments from a wide range of different people who have varying degrees of authority over you (CD, Client, MD, CEO, friends, creative collaborators etc.), choosing which are worth listening to and which should be ignored, and if the comments you don’t like come from someone with power over you, how best to avoid incorporating those comments while keeping your job.
6. Choose collaborators based on information that may not be altogether complete. For example, your budget and script will only attract a so-so director from Splange Films. How do you know he or she will be any good? How do you select him or her from fifteen reels of other mediocre directors? How about the Next Big Thing who might only have an ad that’s not exactly like yours to go on? What about their reputations? Do you go with Great And Difficult or Less Great But Collaborative?
7. Understand what you are actually watching during a shoot. The only person who really knows what is going on is the director, so you have to have the confidence not to stifle him, yet the balls to kick up a fuss if he’s going off-piste. Will these shots work with the music track you like? Is that performance consistent with what you had imagined? If you ask the production company producer if you can speak to the director one more time will the director get pissed off and throw his toys out of the pram?
8. Deal with agency politics. Who is the new CD going to be? Who might get fired? Is it OK to nick a brief off that team? What about that team? If you get in with that Board Account Director will he get you that top brief? If you come onto a project late will you have a better chance of being the one whose ad gets made?
9. Hold your own in post. Can you explain why you think an edit doesn’t quite work? Why that sound effect is too loud and coming in too late? Why this music company needs to be asked to go again? Why that grade is a shade too green? Can you incorporate even more comments from even more people who know better than you and stand your ground? Is it worth standing or should you save up your foot-stomping for a later issue? What’s the best way to coax people round? Are you OK with little white lies? Big black ones?
10. Manage your career. Should you switch agencies now or later? Is your salary high enough? Is that the right agency to move to? Should you listen to all the stories about a place, or take them with a pinch of salt? How do you persuade your boss that your ad really needs to be entered into Digital Crafts: Cinematography at D&AD? Should you have lunch with that CD? Shoud you be persuaded by that headhunter.
Part of the reason I’m pointing this out is that it seems pretty obvious that it would be darn hard to be good at all of the above.
Very few have been; even fewer are now.
But when you look at the odds, it’s amazing that anyone would even get close.