How to handle difficult creatives

First in an irregular series entitled ‘How to handle…’ (future topics may include unwanted stalkers, not getting any Facebook likes, ugly penises) I would like to share some tips that have helped me when trapped in the inexhaustibly petulant company of a Difficult Creative. Use at your own risk.

1. The Creative is not really a Creative
They might look, dress and taste like a Creative, but don’t be deceived. The Converse-clad hipster in front of you is, in fact, a BAFTA-winning movie director. Just not yet. Address them with appropriate awe and you will be rewarded.

2. There is no such thing as a ‘production budget’
As all creative people know, the person in the room with a clipboard and calculator is a figment of their imagination. Sometimes they sense that someone is talking but it sounds a bit like a cat scratching a post. You’ll do best to remember that.

3. It’s hard to find an example of unnecessary innuendo but I’ll give you one
The standard ratio of creative seniority to innuendo is 1:6. Understand that all creative impulses are valid and need a suitable outlet. Enable this by ensuring junior members of the opposite sex are present at every meeting. They don’t even need to work for your agency, so long as they sit quietly and don’t sue.

4. Everyone is the enemy
Your agency creds may stink of the spirit of collaboration, but below the surface is a dense fog of passive-aggression. The only way to pierce through it is to use something shiny, like an award (gold is good, glass is better). Sometimes it is enough to wave one in the Creative’s direction. If this proves ineffective, you should to hit them over the head with it, from behind.

5. Work does not need to be ‘sold’
When a gleaming diamond emerges unspoilt from the depths of a Creative’s blossoming intellect, it does not require ‘shaping’, ‘refining’ or ‘positioning’. It exists in perfect equilibrium and any meddling will only reduce its impact. There are no exceptions, so do not attempt to explain this to the Creative. Instead, coerce the client into pretending they require ‘essential amends’ so the Creative can’t argue with them.

6. Always sleep with the creative director. It’s the only way to guarantee a smooth ride.

7. Don’t write briefs
Briefs are like punches to the soft, bulbous gut of a Creative. They are viewed with great suspicion and when they think no-one’s looking, Creatives can be found pacing around them (at a safe distance) muttering expletives. If you must ‘brief’ a Creative, carve it on a gigantic slab of Dairy Milk and let them eat it afterwards.

8. Arguments are not for you to win
Like a cheetah toys with a wildebeest, occasionally a Creative may invite you to ‘discuss’ their latest campaign ideas. To an amateur, this may look like an open invitation to proffer insightful points of view and constructive criticism. This is a trap. The Creative has already considered any argument you can muster and has a winning comeback. Try to accept that you are mere cannon fodder and retreat as soon as possible.

9. Always, always suggest that ‘we do this over lunch’

10. All is fair in love and advertising
Creatives have an inbuilt radar to detect unfair treatment. The other team got to go on the Barbados shoot? Oh dear. They will not let you forget this until you furnish them with a new office, sexy intern or feature spread in Campaign. Better yet, sleep with them. In their new office. With the sexy intern.

I hope these tips help ease your tumultuous journey through agency land. Feel free to submit tips of your own.


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