What Does an Advertising Agency Creative Director Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

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The creative director is responsible for overseeing all creative products produced by an advertising agency. Creative directors ensure the agency produces high-quality creative content for its clients and oversee the entire creative team, including copywriters, art directors, and designers.

A creative director generally gets the glory when a campaign is a success and, conversely, takes the blame when it's a failure. Some creative directors have become ad industry celebrities (think Trevor Beattie, Bill Bernbach, Alex Bogusky, David Deutsch, and David Ogilvy). The best ones often become partners in the agency that hired them or open their own agency.

Ad Agency Creative Director Duties & Responsibilities

An advertising agency creative director job generally requires the ability to perform the following tasks:

  • Develop advertising campaigns for clients.
  • Manage a large team of creative writers and designers.
  • Assign projects to individual team members.
  • Ensure all projects are on track creatively.
  • Work cooperatively with account executives and clients.

An ad agency creative director must be highly imaginative and an effective manager of talent. They have to balance the concerns and needs of many people: the partners and owners of the ad agency, their clients, the account executives who work directly with clients, and the people who work under them.

Depending on the campaign, they may be heavily involved in the formation of ideas for copy and design from the very beginning and so may lead brainstorming sessions to get the creative energy flowing. At other times, they may be more hands-off and provide feedback to the team members they asked to move a project forward.

Ad Agency Creative Director Salary

The salary for a creative director at an agency varies based on the number of years of experience, the size of the agency, and geographic location. It also depends on whether they are a partner in or a founder of the agency or an employee of the agency.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide salary data specifically on ad agency creative directors. The following figures were compiled by PayScale. Hourly figures assume a 40-hour work week, which is shorter than a typical creative director actually puts in.

  • Median Annual Salary: $98,120 ($47.17/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $186,000 ($89.42/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $49,000 ($23.56/hour)

Source: PayScale, May 2019

Education, Training, & Certification

Most creative director positions require a bachelor's degree in creative design, advertising, marketing, journalism, communications, or a related field.

  • Higher education: A master's degree may be helpful if it's in a field that makes up for a deficiency in a creative director's undergraduate degree. For instance, they might get a master's in multimedia design if their undergraduate degree and prior work experience focused on copywriting.
  • Prior experience: Agencies usually ask for five to seven years of related job experience. In larger cities, they tend to ask for at least 10 years of experience.

Ad Agency Creative Director Skills & Competencies

Aspiring creative directors often wait years before they attain their first job in that role. There are many qualities and talents they have to possess to achieve that goal and be successful in this position:

  • Leadership: Creative directors lead and inspire a team of people who are also very creative and may be averse to taking direction.
  • Experience doing the jobs of the people they manage: A solid background in copywriting or design and art direction is a must-have.
  • Technological savvy: Experience with Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, PowerPoint, HTML, PHP, and other programs is often required.
  • Willingness to travel: Creative directors frequently travel to meet with clients or attend industry-related events.

Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not offer predictions of job growth for advertising agency creative directors.

Work Environment

An ad agency is often a fast-paced place filled with creative and career-driven people. The office is likely to be comfortable and stylish, with attractive furnishings and works of art.

Work Schedule

An ad agency creative director typically works very long hours, including some weekends. They must be available at all hours to provide guidance to the people who report to them and answer questions from the people they report to.

How to Get the Job

INTERN

Gain an internship at an agency while you're in college. If you work hard and show your creative potential, you could find an entry-level job when you graduate that would be the first step in a career ladder that culminates in creative director.

APPLY

Creativehotlist and Dribble post job listings for creative positions. Also, check out the Careers or Jobs page on ad agency websites.

PRESENT A PORTFOLIO

You will be expected to have a portfolio of work to show potential employers. It should demonstrate the range of your talents in a variety of media forms.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People who want to become ad agency creative directors may also be interested in the following positions. The figures given are median annual salaries.