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The Cat Herder: The Role and Function of the Agency Creative Director
Unformatted Document Text:  THE  CAT  HERDER     23   That creative directors must “be able to defend work” (as one of the respondents expressed it) underscores the perennial tension between agency creatives and “the other” whether that is planners, suits or clients. Another made the same point more poetically, from the writer or art director’s point of view: ‘Every day I have a baby, which I take to a meeting and 12 people beat it with sticks. [The creative director’s] job is to keep that baby alive until someone adopts it” (AD L3). While creatives all contend that the ideal CD should be a champion of good work, many felt that their creative director fell short, or in one big agency case, was actually an obstacle to getting good work done (L1). Research has shown this type of conflict can lead to negative perceptions about the supervisor’s support and creative encouragement (Xin & Pelled 2003). Culture Builder Finally, creative directors served as culture builders for the creative department. Culture building can be cultivated through several avenues, from setting the tone of the creative culture, to serving as a head hunter to hire people who build or maintain the creative culture, to keeping an eye on the future while shaping the creative vision of the agency. Culture Builder The CD sets the tone. While there was universality in the creative director’s contribution to culture and climate, the specific execution of that varied substantially from agency to agency. The majority of agencies exhibited creative cultures that derived from their founders. At L3, that was quite antithetical to the stereotypical creative atmosphere at other agencies: “You don’t need shenanigans and basketballs to do good work,” according to one creative director. Not surprisingly, this agency had a strict code for office protocol, including

Authors: Mallia, Karen., Windels, Kasey. and Broyles, Sheri.
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THE  CAT  HERDER  
 
23  
That creative directors must “be able to defend work” (as one of the respondents 
expressed it) underscores the perennial tension between agency creatives and “the other” 
whether that is planners, suits or clients. Another made the same point more poetically, from 
the writer or art director’s point of view: ‘Every day I have a baby, which I take to a meeting 
and 12 people beat it with sticks. [The creative director’s] job is to keep that baby alive until 
someone adopts it” (AD L3). 
While creatives all contend that the ideal CD should be a champion of good work, 
many felt that their creative director fell short, or in one big agency case, was actually an 
obstacle to getting good work done (L1). Research has shown this type of conflict can lead to 
negative perceptions about the supervisor’s support and creative encouragement (Xin & 
Pelled 2003).  
Culture Builder 
 
Finally, creative directors served as culture builders for the creative department. 
Culture building can be cultivated through several avenues, from setting the tone of the 
creative culture, to serving as a head hunter to hire people who build or maintain the creative 
culture, to keeping an eye on the future while shaping the creative vision of the agency. 
Culture Builder 
The CD sets the tone. While there was universality in the creative director’s 
contribution to culture and climate, the specific execution of that varied substantially from 
agency to agency. The majority of agencies exhibited creative cultures that derived from their 
founders. At L3, that was quite antithetical to the stereotypical creative atmosphere at other 
agencies: “You don’t need shenanigans and basketballs to do good work,” according to one 
creative director. Not surprisingly, this agency had a strict code for office protocol, including 


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