Recently, Ben Kay had a debate on his blog about what sort of creative director you should work for.

Ben finally decided it should be one you respect.

The issue then becomes, how do you define respect?

I guess everyone has to come up with their own version of how you pick who you work for.

For me it was always, can I learn from this guy, and is their opinion better than mine.

I worked for John Webster for 10 years.

I kept trying to leave, I had lots of interviews.

But every other creative director wasn’t as good as John Webster.

Every interview I had just made me realise I was working for the best.

What John did for me was make me better.

He made me braver, he made me take chances, he made me do better work.

Isn’t that what you want from a creative director.

So for 10 years I couldn’t leave.

Then John made someone else creative director.

And I didn’t want to report to him, I didn’t think he was as good as me.

So I left and started my own agency.

But the problem was, I didn’t have a creative director anymore.

And I think we all need a creative director to make us do better work.

To push us beyond what’s comfortable.

Even if it’s only someone in our own mind.

So I had to create my own creative director.

And I found three people who, put together, were better than me.

An art director, a copywriter and an account man.

Gordon Smith would never get seduced, as I would, by complicated marketing logic.

Working with Gordon is like working with a copy of The Sun.

I’ll spend ages working on the strategy, the tactics, the research findings, the consumer insight, the brand personality.

Then I explain it all to Gordon and show him the ad.

He says, “Yeah, but it ain’t funny.”

And I think, shit he’s right.

Working with Gordon reminds me that we’re not in marketing.

We’re in advertising.

All the logic in the world won’t work if that ad’s dull.

Being reminded of that makes me do better ads.

Paul Grubb was a trainee copywriter from Sheffield.

I was briefing him on a TV ad we had to do for Knirps umbrellas.
I said the brief was ‘structural integrity’.
Grubby said, what’s that?
I said, “It’ll bend but it won’t break. So we need a strapline that says that. But we have to lock it into our brand. No one knows the names of umbrellas, so we need a mnemonic.”
Grubby said, what’s a mnemonic?
I said a catchy device to make the name stick in your memory, a gimmick.
Grubby said, like what?
I said, “I dunno something like….er….you can break a brolley but you can’t k-nacker a K-nirps. Do something like that.”
Grubby said, what’s wrong with that. I like that?
I said, “Don’t be daft, you can’t do that, it’s swearing.”
Then I thought, hang on, maybe he’s right.

Grubby reacted the way a punter reacts to a copy of the Sun.

It’s funny, it made me laugh, that’s good.

Being reminded of that makes me do better ads.

Mike Greenlees was the Chief Exec at GGT.

When we were starting the agency we were doing a pitch for a beer account.

I wrote a campaign and showed it to Mike.

He said, “It’s a very good beer campaign, I’ll have no trouble selling it. But it doesn’t scare me. Can’t you do something that scares me?”

Sometimes I forget that.

That consumers aren’t interested in the subtle differences between ad campaigns.

We’re competing with everything else in the media.

Newspapers, TV, internet, magazines, films, music, everything.

If we’re too comfortable, then what we’re doing won’t be different.

And if it isn’t different, it won’t stand out.

And if it doesn’t stand out, it has no chance of working.

I need reminding of that.

It makes me do better work.

So I put those three guys together in my head, and made them my creative director.

If they all agreed on something, I’d over-ride my own opinion.

Because I had a creative director made up of three people who thought like Sun readers.

They liked to laugh, they gave a genuine consumer response.

And they weren’t seduced by marketing bullshit, as I can be.

So, I’m not so sure I go along with respect as my motivation for choosing a creative director.

Personally I look for someone who can make me better.

And if you can’t find one, build your own.