I’ve known a lot of creative directors in my time. And the one thing we all have in common, is that at one time in our career, we were certain that our value was tied to our ability to sift through a mound of ideas, identify the ones with potential and help turn them into great campaigns. I used to think this way, and am pretty sure my partner, Tracy, did too. Heck, who doesn’t want to think that their personal taste, experience and certain je ne sais quoi are integral to the creation of every great campaign that comes out of the building? And don’t get me wrong, a good creative director can and should recognize the potential in an idea and be able to help steer it towards its finest iteration.
But, if you took a “Moneyball”-like approach to creativity and eliminated all the subjectivity and romantic notions about creative leadership, what would you find has the greatest impact on creative output? (For those who haven’t seen or read “Moneyball,” it’s an approach to baseball espoused by Oakland Athletics general manager, Billy Beane, who stopped focusing o more subjective qualities such as speed, quickness, arm strength, hitting ability and mental toughness and instead, focused almost exclusively on simple on-base percentage.) Would it be the creative director’s ability to see and develop the big idea. Or would it be something else?
I would argue that in an industry that’s more driven by technology than ever before and spread across a number of disciplines that require more specialization than ever before, there can no longer be a single keeper of the creative flame. A creative director may be great at storytelling or great at digital or great at experiential, but he or she is invariably not the single best, brightest, most informed individual in the building on every possible initiative that will require creative thinking.
So if it’s not the keen insight and direction of the creative director that most directly leads to breakthrough creative work, what is it?