As an ECD, four simple quotes always guided me.
- the first quote is about hiring people, from Bob Paisley:
“The sort of youngster we’re looking for will try to nutmeg Kevin Keegan on the training pitch then stand aside for him in the corridor.”
Bob Paisley was manager of Liverpool, Kevin Keegan was the star player.
Keegan was voted ‘European Footballer of the Year’ twice, so he was unarguably the best.
To ‘nutmeg’ a player was to run at them with the ball at your feet, send them the wrong way, and kick the ball between their legs, only the best players can do that.
So Bob Paisley was looking for youngsters who were cheeky enough to try to outplay the best, but still respectful enough to stand aside for them in the corridor.
It’s the same in a creative dept., you want a youngster who’s confident enough to take on the best, but you don’t want arrogance.
They have to realise you’re still the ECD and they need to show respect.
They mustn’t think they are better than the agency.
- the second quote is also about hiring people, from Michael Caine:
“You only have to give an actor direction when you’ve got the casting wrong.”
Michael Caine and Sean Connery were on the set of ‘The Man Who Would be King’ directed by John Huston.
It was going well, everyone was happy, but Caine worried that Huston hadn’t given him any direction about how he wanted him to play the part.
Caine asked Huston why that was, and Huston replied as above, saying that he’d cast them because they were exactly what he had in mind and they were acting the roles exactly the way he wanted, so he didn’t need to say anything.
That’s exactly what I found. Gordon and I wanted youngsters who were desperate to do a lot of great work in the shortest time, we weren’t running a holiday camp.
So we hired mainly young northerners who’d come down to London to work.
They didn’t come down here for fun, they could have stayed up north for that.
They wanted the chance to work hard, which is exactly what we wanted them to do.
We hired people who wanted to work, then we never had to worry about their motivation.
- the third quote is from Kenny Dalgleish:
“I’ll know I’ve got the team right when I can’t get on it.”
Kenny Dalgleish was a great player for Liverpool, but he was coming to the end of his playing days and Liverpool wanted to keep him playing for another year or two.
So they agreed to make him player-manager, train him to be manager while he was playing.
One day a TV interviewer asked him how it was going, training to be a manager.
That’s when Kenny said the quote above, meaning he may well be the best player but that wasn’t really his job anymore.
His job was to put together a team that would win, not just to keep scoring goals himself.
Often the best creative person is made ECD just to keep them writing ads, but if they do the creative work themselves, they’re still a creative not an ECD.
- The fourth quote is from the film ‘Zulu’:
“Don’t you worry about them son, you just worry about me.”
In 1879, at Rourke’s Drift, five thousand Zulus are attacking 100 Welsh soldiers.
One terrified young soldier says: “There’s thousands of ‘em sarge, what’ll we do?”
Colour-Sergeant Bourne speaks calmly into the youngster’s ear and says the quote above.
I always saw that as the ECD’s job.
Creatives shouldn’t worry about account men, planners, clients, that’s my job – they should just worry about what I tell them to do.
That way the creatives have only got one thing to think about: doing great ads.
Everything else should funnel through the ECD, I agree the brief, then check the ads are on brief, and handle meetings and arguments about strategy/media/clients, etc.
They won’t work for everyone, but those are the four quotes that worked for me in building and running a creative dept.