It always seemed to me there two basic ways to be an ECD.

Start your own agency, then hire younger teams as you grow.

Or take over the ECD’s job at a large existing agency.

I always wanted to try the second way but I never got the chance.

I’ve always had to do it the first way.

Maybe I dodged a bullet.

When I’ve been building agencies I’ve hired juniors and trained them.

This has worked out great for me.

They’ve learned to do it the way I want it done.

Which saves tons of aggravation.

At an existing agency, teams would have their own way of doing ads and it probably isn’t the same as mine.

This is a problem.

Either I take my hands off the controls and let them do it their way, in which case how am I being a creative director?

Or I try to make them do it my way, and they hate it and leave.

I can understand that, too.

That’s why I’ve pretty much only ever worked with juniors that I’ve trained.

Juniors who learned and grew fast, who won awards and got famous.

Who became creative directors at other agencies or opened their own agencies.

I think the parallel is in football.

Some managers build the team and train youngsters.

Then the entire team wants to do it their way, because that’s how they’ve learned.

Some managers come in and take over an existing team.

Then try to get it playing better than it was.

You’d put Shankly, Revie, Clough, Busby, Ferguson, Wenger, Bobby Robson, in the first camp.

You’d put Redknapp, Allardyce, Hughes, Hodgson, Mourinho, Mancini, Benitez, in the second camp.

In advertising, you’d put Hegarty, Webster, Saatchi, Saville, in the first camp.

You’d put Arden, Souter, Fink, Cracknel, in the second camp.

Some ECDs have tried both ways: Abbott (DDB, FGA, AMV), Tim Delaney (BBDO, LD), Steve Henry (HHCL, TBWA) Trevor Beattie (TBWA, BMB).

It’s salutary to look at Brian Clough, he tried both: Leeds and Forest.

At Forest he built a team that wanted to do it his way.

They won the European Cup twice.

At Leeds he took over someone else’s team and they didn’t see why they needed to be told what to do by a bully.

He lasted ninety days.

Either way can work, but you probably have to get the right man for the right job.


It’s two very different jobs: building a creative department, or managing one someone else has built.