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The Cat Herder: The Role and Function of the Agency Creative Director
Unformatted Document Text:  THE  CAT  HERDER     3   Leadership represents a huge body of research in management. A rich stream is devoted to creativity and to creative leadership. Yet there has been very little research in creative leadership in one of the leading knowledge industries, advertising. Creative capital is the engine upon which the entire advertising industry runs. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the agency creative department, where multi-million dollar campaign ideas are conceived and produced. Creative leadership plays a pivotal role in the quantity and quality of advertising ideas and, yet few creative directors have any training whatsoever for the managerial aspects of the job. Agencies are often criticized for lack of training and development, and that was most recently noted at the 4A’s conference in March 2011. In fact, in the words of Arnold CEO Andrew Benett, “The average Starbucks barista gets more training than the average communications employee” (Morrison 2011). Due to the disappearance of agency training programs over the last several decades, it’s hardly surprising that people are elevated from copywriter and art director positions and moved into creative director posts with varying levels of managerial responsibility, and utterly no preparation for leadership. If they attended a post-graduate portfolio school, it’s likely they had significant creative training, but these programs are geared to teach creative judgment and craft skills, not managerial or leadership skills. So talented successful agency creative people (writers and art directors) are promoted to higher levels of responsibility for an agency’s creative product with little more than observational learning, implicit assumptions and on-the-job experiential learning. How do they do what they do? What do they do?

Authors: Mallia, Karen., Windels, Kasey. and Broyles, Sheri.
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Leadership represents a huge body of research in management. A rich stream is 
devoted to creativity and to creative leadership. Yet there has been very little research in 
creative leadership in one of the leading knowledge industries, advertising. 
Creative capital is the engine upon which the entire advertising industry runs. 
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the agency creative department, where multi-million 
dollar campaign ideas are conceived and produced. Creative leadership plays a pivotal role in 
the quantity and quality of advertising ideas and, yet few creative directors have any training 
whatsoever for the managerial aspects of the job. 
Agencies are often criticized for lack of training and development, and that was most 
recently noted at the 4A’s conference in March 2011. In fact, in the words of Arnold CEO 
Andrew Benett, “The average Starbucks barista gets more training than the average 
communications employee” (Morrison 2011).    
Due to the disappearance of agency training programs over the last several decades, 
it’s hardly surprising that people are elevated from copywriter and art director positions and 
moved into creative director posts with varying levels of managerial responsibility, and 
utterly no preparation for leadership. If they attended a post-graduate portfolio school, it’s 
likely they had significant creative training, but these programs are geared to teach creative 
judgment and craft skills, not managerial or leadership skills. 
So talented successful agency creative people (writers and art directors) are promoted 
to higher levels of responsibility for an agency’s creative product with little more than 
observational learning, implicit assumptions and on-the-job experiential learning. How do 
they do what they do? What do they do?  

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