The best advice I ever heard about being a creative director was from Kenny Dalglish.

He was Liverpool’s all-time greatest player.

He won the FA Cup and the European Super-Cup.

He won the Charity Shield 5 times.

He won the League (the equivalent of the Premiership) 6 times.

He won the European Cup 3 times.

Eventually, he became interested in the next step in his career.

Being a manager.

He thought he’d have to stop playing to learn this new trade.

But Liverpool wanted to hang onto him for as long as they could.

So they suggested a compromise.

He could be ‘player-manager’.

He could play for Liverpool and, at the same time, be their manager.

So that’s what Dalglish did.

He played regularly for Liverpool while learning how to put together, and run, a team.

One day he was being interviewed by the press.

A journalist asked him “How are you finding the transition to management Kenny?”

In a heavy Scottish accent Dalglish said “Well, I’ll know I’ve got the team right when I can’t get on it.”

And there it is.

IMHO the best piece of advice about being a creative director.

You get the creative director’s job because usually, like Kenny Dalglish, you’re really good at what you do.

You’re a terrific art director or copywriter.

You do great ads.

But being a creative director, like being a football manager, is a different job.

Now the job isn’t to go on the pitch and score yourself.

Now the job is to put together a team that can score without you.

The temptation is to carry on doing great ads yourself.

But that isn’t a creative director’s job.

That’s a copywriter or art director.

Of course you’re capable of doing ads yourself, that isn’t the question.

The question is, can you get other people to do it?

If you can’t, you’re not really a creative director.

You’re still a copywriter or art director.

Of course the problem is the same as it was for Kenny Dalglish.

You’re actually better than some of the people in the team.

You know you could do better ads yourself than some of the work they’re showing you.

So what do you do?

You can’t let bad ads run, that doesn’t help anyone.

Well the difference between us and Kenny Dalglish is that we haven’t got 60,000 people watching our every move.

So it depends how badly you want to be a creative director.

If you want it badly enough, sometimes you might have to do the work yourself and pretend the team did it.

Because you don’t want to be known for just doing good ads anymore.

Now you want to be known for running a department that turns out good ads.

Of course this is difficult.

It’s always difficult to give away credit for something you’ve done yourself.

To put someone else’s name down as writer or art director.

But just make sure your name goes down as creative director.

That way you’ll be known for what you want to be known for.

Incidentally, how did his advice work for Kenny Dalglish?

How did he do as manager of Liverpool?

He won the FA Cup twice.

He won Charity Shield 4 times.

He won the League (the equivalent of The Premiership) 3 times running.


As Kenny Dalglish said “You’ll know you’ve got the team right when you can’t get on it.”