Creatives outsway managing directors in industry survey

Managing directors with illusions of grandeur might like to take a deep breath before reading further.

A new survey on the creative community by marketing recruitment company Blue Skies finds that although managing directors may drive a business’s strategic direction, it is often the creative director who holds the key to client direction.

A cross-section of some 540 in-house and consultancy creatives were polled, from junior designers to creative directors.

Just over half believed their creative directors have more influence on the direction of clients than their managing directors. Only 24 per cent considered their managing directors hold the sway where clients are concerned.

Ben Vickers, managing director of Blue Skies, says the results challenge the traditional view that managing directors are considered to have overall control of clients.

Vickers says, ‘Creatives are confident in their ability and are much more directional in their advice than ever before. This is a sector that is realising its worth.’

Sam Pettitt, head of creative at Blue Skies, adds, ‘Creatives are at the sharp end. In the digital arena, especially, consultancies have to be clever about what they are doing.’

But Andy Knowles, creative director of JKR, says it is not necessarily a case of either/or, and that creatives and managing directors have different roles.

He says, ‘The creative people help identify a strong idea but it’s the managing directors who make sure it happens. They bring a sound understanding to the strategic perspective.’

Knowles also argues that creativity is increasingly the backbone of corporate growth. ‘There are few business categories which are not mature. Companies are finding that cost-control and logic will only make so many gains.

‘We sense that many groups are seeking other sources of growth aside from cost-cutting. It’s the people on the creative side who offer a differentiator,’ he says.

Jonathan Cummings, marketing director of Start Creative, says that much will depend on the size and structure of a consultancy. ‘In a smaller consultancy, creatives are much more involved in the running of the business than in larger groups,’ he says.

On the other hand, he says, there are managing directors who are also former creatives – perhaps they started their own group – and who are still very much involved in the whole creative process.

Cummings adds, ‘The report doesn’t explain exactly what is meant by the word “influence”. Even if the creative director isn’t directly client-facing, the work they are producing definitely is.

‘This survey opens up the debate and gets people thinking. It is important for expanding groups to examine their structure for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. It’s not necessarily a case of creative director versus managing director.’

On a happy note, the Blue Skies survey does suggest creatives are a content bunch: 62 per cent of all respondents said they are happy in their role and a heart-warming 44 per cent feel they have achieved their childhood dream career.

A significant 46 per cent said flexible working hours is the key to job satisfaction, while a bullish 45 per cent felt they could do a better job than their boss.



Surveying the creatives

• 543 in-house and consultancy creatives were polled – a cross-section of staff, from junior designers to creative directors

• Just over half believed their directors have more influence on the direction of clients than their managing directors. Only 24% considered their managing directors hold the client power

• 62% said they are happy in their role and 44% felt they have achieved their dream career

• 46% said flexible working hours is the key to job satisfaction, while 45% felt they can do a better job than their boss

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