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The Cat Herder: The Role and Function of the Agency Creative Director
Unformatted Document Text:  THE  CAT  HERDER     25   Despite widespread industry stereotypes about the goal of creatives being winning awards at the cost of effective advertising, all the creative directors interviewed here had a profound respect for their clients’ brands, were integral in strategy development, and viewed “brand communication management” as an important part of their job—defined here as maintaining the integrity of the brand personality, image and voice. A major part of the job of the creative director is to think through the strategy on the brief to determine whether a strategy will work. Because they think through possible executions in a very informal manner, they can thus project whether the strategy will lead to good creative. The findings of this study suggest leadership in the creative department is very similar to leadership in other realms of creative work. This research found the creative director serves several roles as a creative leader. A key role is creative motivator. To do this, creative directors lead by example, present creative challenges, and guide creatives toward new ways of thinking about an idea. These findings are further supported by research on transformational leadership, in which effective leadership is based on intellectual stimulation, charisma and inspiration (Bass 1990). It is further related to research on perceived leader support, whereby creative employees felt greater perceived leader support when leaders provided general guidance along with constructive feedback (Amabile et al. 2004). The literature on creative leadership suggests expertise and creativity are two vital factors for all creative leaders (Andrews & Farris 1967; Mumford et al. 2002), and this research confirmed that within the advertising agency, creative genius is an important component of the role of the creative director. Because creative directors evaluate and guide the work of creative teams, creativity is a vital component of their work, including the ability to recognize great ideas in a raw form and help teams build upon them. Fortunately, the

Authors: Mallia, Karen., Windels, Kasey. and Broyles, Sheri.
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Despite widespread industry stereotypes about the goal of creatives being winning 
awards at the cost of effective advertising, all the creative directors interviewed here had a 
profound respect for their clients’ brands, were integral in strategy development, and viewed 
“brand communication management” as an important part of their job—defined here as 
maintaining the integrity of the brand personality, image and voice. A major part of the job of 
the creative director is to think through the strategy on the brief to determine whether a 
strategy will work. Because they think through possible executions in a very informal 
manner, they can thus project whether the strategy will lead to good creative.   
The findings of this study suggest leadership in the creative department is very 
similar to leadership in other realms of creative work. This research found the creative 
director serves several roles as a creative leader. A key role is creative motivator. To do this, 
creative directors lead by example, present creative challenges, and guide creatives toward 
new ways of thinking about an idea. These findings are further supported by research on 
transformational leadership, in which effective leadership is based on intellectual stimulation, 
charisma and inspiration (Bass 1990). It is further related to research on perceived leader 
support, whereby creative employees felt greater perceived leader support when leaders 
provided general guidance along with constructive feedback (Amabile et al. 2004).  
The literature on creative leadership suggests expertise and creativity are two vital 
factors for all creative leaders (Andrews & Farris 1967; Mumford et al. 2002), and this 
research confirmed that within the advertising agency, creative genius is an important 
component of the role of the creative director. Because creative directors evaluate and guide 
the work of creative teams, creativity is a vital component of their work, including the ability 
to recognize great ideas in a raw form and help teams build upon them. Fortunately, the 

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