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The Cat Herder: The Role and Function of the Agency Creative Director
Unformatted Document Text:  THE  CAT  HERDER     4   That is the purpose of this paper: To explore the various roles and functions of creative directors in advertising agencies, how those roles and responsibilities intersect with the current learning on creative leadership, and how they are perceived both by creative directors and their subordinates. What is a “creative director”? Creative people in advertising historically begin in one of two functional positions: copywriter and art director. With time and success, they are awarded greater responsibility and a range of creative director titles, beginning with associate creative director. A creative director has “moved up the agency food chain to manage the creative process and finished product. That creative director is assigned the task of orchestrating the direction of creative work for the group or the agency, depending on his or her level and title” (Robbs and Morrison 2009, p. 6). We can start with traditional textbook definitions, but few would argue that the role of the advertising creative director has changed beyond recognition in the past two decades (Cracknell, Sutherland, & O’Keefe 2007). The onslaught of digital and social media during the last decade has begun to change the landscape of creative departments and the nature of creative teams (Mallia & Windels 2011). What that job of creative director is today and what may be required of a creative director in the future may or may not be the same, but we need to outline the various roles before we can begin to observe similarities or changes. The skills required of a creative director are many and varied. “They need to be not only talented as creatives, but also good managers of people and natural leaders who are good with clients and coworkers. They’re ready to make a big change—the CD’s job is far removed from the comparatively simple exercise of creating ads…. They’ve most likely piled up many awards on their journey so have a high profile in the community and a strong reputation. It doesn’t much matter if their

Authors: Mallia, Karen., Windels, Kasey. and Broyles, Sheri.
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THE  CAT  HERDER  
 
4  
That is the purpose of this paper: To explore the various roles and functions of 
creative directors in advertising agencies, how those roles and responsibilities intersect with 
the current learning on creative leadership, and how they are perceived both by creative 
directors and their subordinates.  
What is a “creative director”?   
Creative people in advertising historically begin in one of two functional positions: 
copywriter and art director. With time and success, they are awarded greater responsibility 
and a range of creative director titles, beginning with associate creative director. A creative 
director has “moved up the agency food chain to manage the creative process and finished 
product. That creative director is assigned the task of orchestrating the direction of creative 
work for the group or the agency, depending on his or her level and title” (Robbs and 
Morrison 2009, p. 6).   
We can start with traditional textbook definitions, but few would argue that the role 
of the advertising creative director has changed beyond recognition in the past two decades 
(Cracknell, Sutherland, & O’Keefe 2007). The onslaught of digital and social media during 
the last decade has begun to change the landscape of creative departments and the nature of 
creative teams (Mallia & Windels 2011). What that job of creative director is today and what 
may be required of a creative director in the future may or may not be the same, but we need 
to outline the various roles before we can begin to observe similarities or changes. The skills 
required of a creative director are many and varied. 
“They need to be not only talented as creatives, but also good managers of 
people and natural leaders who are good with clients and coworkers. 
They’re ready to make a big change—the CD’s job is far removed from 
the comparatively simple exercise of creating ads…. They’ve most likely 
piled up many awards on their journey so have a high profile in the 
community and a strong reputation. It doesn’t much matter if their 


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