Creative leadership requires bravery and intuition
New creative directors need to understand that creative leadership requires guidance and a clear way forward. Not making a decision and a lack of guidance are worse than making the wrong decision, as you can at least learn from a wrong decision and then make a good one.
I was once told that the key to creative leadership is simply giving clear direction and a definite time by which it must be executed. This applies to clients too. The most successful clients always make a clear call. Often, this is based on a gut feel and an intuition of what is right for their brand. Sometimes it is based on experience and, probably, a few bad decisions.
Marketing sometimes appears to be satisfying internal issues and management expectations rather than being connected to the market.
With strong and intuitive clients, you know exactly where you stand. If they love the work you make it, if they don’t, they tell you not to present such inferior work again. These clients usually have one strong leader and don’t rely on PowerPoint slides filled with product triangles, brand rockets and spider diagrams. They just know, and aren’t afraid to get it wrong.
Adidas made the call to go with its amazing piece of work Original Is Never Finished. It turned out to be the right call. As was the call to trust the right people to do it. Pepsi made the wrong call with its Kendall Jenner piece. It probably won’t make the call again and I expect it to come back with something big and right. Either way, we noticed the work.
We’ve all seen these lines in briefs: “It’s a rugged off-road car, but it’s for on-road too”; “We are talking to an older market, but don’t ignore the youth”; “We’re serious, but fun”. It’s like going left and right.
When decisions are not clear or have no direction at all, you hover around what is safe and what a committee is comfortable with. You get middle-of-the-road communication that doesn’t offend or inspire anyone, but leaves people with okay and barely a blip on their emotional radar.
The lesson here is not to hesitate or stand still. I’ve made many bad decisions, but more often than not they’ve led to something more interesting. And I’ve learned more making bad decisions than when I’ve done nothing at all.
As hard as it is sometimes … just make the call!
* Weber is executive creative partner at M&C Saatchi Abel Johannesburg.