When creative is a noun
In any other field, if you announced yourself as a “creative,” you’d be instantly pegged as a narcissist. But in advertising and marketing, being a “creative” is simply the blanket job title used to describe those in the agency’s creative department—writers, art directors, graphic designers, web developers, paste-up and production artists, illustrators, storyboard artists, and creative directors.
Creatives are the ones tasked with translating the creative brief laying out the client’s objectives, intended audience, medium, budget, timing, and message, and—ideally—turning it into something so compelling that it’ll not only meet all those criteria but also reward the consumer for the experience and motivate them to act. A tall order to say the least, but it’s also what drives most creatives to do what it is they do…on a deadline, no less.
Creatives of all stripes have one trait in common, and that is, of course, that they’re creative. This is why, if you’re fortunate enough to be one, your number one goal should be to not simply be a good creative but an indispensable one.
Making yourself indispensable is a whole lot easier than it sounds.
The simplest and most obvious way to be an indispensable creative is to really love what it is that you do. Don’t tell this to my bosses, but I’d pay them for the privilege of doing what it is I get to do every day. It’s like being entrusted with the keys to a Ferrari with the only instructions being not to scratch it. Every day is like that moment in kindergarten when my homeroom teacher would surprise us following math by bringing out the finger-paints and proclaiming we didn’t have to stay within the lines or keep our colors clean.
As a creative, it’s already your job to provide creative solutions to every challenge you’re tasked with. Indispensable creatives, however, don’t merely solve the problems on their own plate but seek out problems to solve wherever they reside.
For instance, it’s not uncommon to hear creatives musing about accounts they wish they had the opportunity to work on. The question is, what’s stopping them other than the fact that the account resides at another agency? I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve won work by simply providing the soon-to-be client with a spec campaign they didn’t know they needed or had an inkling it was in the works. There’s something appealing for the client in knowing exactly what their next campaign will be, along with its cost, without the uncertainty and expense that comes with kicking off a new project without any guarantee the end product will deliver the goods.
At the very least, the endeavor sharpens the creatives’ skills and puts the agency on the potential client’s radar should their incumbent agency ever get lazy or complacent.
And don’t forget the clients already in your stable. They love it when you provide them with solutions they haven’t requested in addition to the mandatories. Just like within your own shop when you make it your mission to know not just your client’s products and services inside and out but also what makes them, as individuals, tick personally—you’ll naturally discover opportunities to contribute creative solutions that add value to your relationship. It could be simply a matter of making their pet causes your causes. Imagine their surprise if they’ve decided to champion a charity or launch a philanthropic initiative, and they open their inbox to find an entire campaign laid out for them.
Endeavors like the ones above provide creatives with opportunities to really stretch their wings and push the envelope. And it’s important they do so. It goes without saying, no new accounts are going to be won by producing the same-old same-old for a potential client that is already getting that from their incumbent agency. And it would be hard to justify allocating agency resources to producing spec work that doesn’t move the creative ball forward or result in new business.
Ultimately, any creative worth his or her salt will tell you—“creative” was never intended to be a noun.