The Best & Worst Creative Directors I’ve Ever Worked With

I’ve been very lucky, I’ve worked some amazing creative directors. These are people who have molded my career, taught we valuable lessons, mentored, pushed and promoted me. These are also people who have fired me, harassed me and bullied me. These are people I’ve loved, loathed, looked up to, and looked down upon. These are people who taught me how to behave and how not to behave. But most importantly, these are people who made me want to someday be a creative director. To help others as they have helped me.

Below are a list of the best and worst. But mostly the best.

The Best (In order of my career):

Sandra Jackson – Copy Chief, Strawbridge and Clothier Department Store.

My first boss, who taught me more than she will ever know. She was a mentor, a friend, a teacher and a disciplinarian. She gave me the foundation of my entire career. She also gave me the desire to give back to more junior writers. She didn’t have to spend as much time with me as she did. But she never complained.

Jim Dale and Steve Perrin – Doner
I’ll never forget my interview with Jim and Steve. My portfolio was awful. The concepts were expected. But they saw something in me – not my work – that they liked. The told me that I have exactly one good idea in my portfolio. They couldn’t tell if I was good, or if I created it by accident. But they were willing to take a chance on me. They also beat the heck out of me. Steve said one line over and over again “you know what this ad needs, it needs an idea.” But he taught me so much. Helped me with my concept development. Jim and Steve were the godfathers of my career.

Laurel Krischok – DMB&B
Laurel was not my creative director; she was my art director partner. She taught me more about how to create a TV commercial than anyone I had ever worked with. We also hated each other. We would fight like cats and dogs. She had to be right about everything. The problem was, so did I. She eventually left and I got reassigned to another art director – Greg – who ended up being my favorite art director partner for years.

Bruce Nelson and Ira Madris – McCann
I loved Bruce and Ira. Incredible creative directors. They hired me to work on Coke and Kodak. They gave me incredible opportunities. They had great taste. They produced great work. Unfortunately, they didn’t stay for very long. I didn’t like the guy who came after them and I left the agency. But I’ll never forget Bruce and Ira.

Stan Becker – Dancer Fitzgerald Sample
He gave me the first BIG promotion of my career to Associate Creative Director. Considering I was only 28 at the time, it was a huge risk. And for a long time, I wasn’t very good. But he taught me how to guide others. He gave me to tools that I still use today. Plus, he was a hell of a nice guy. Thanks Stan.

Brent Bouchez – Bozell
I don’t think Brent liked me very much. But he gave me the greatest gift any CD ever gave me – the greatest team on a great product. Brent put me, Lynn Mercado and Michelle Ferone together to produce some TV commercials for a small regional telephone company. For the next four years, the three of us travelled the globe shooting hundreds of commercials for Bell Atlantic and then Verizon wireless. Some of the best times I’ve EVER had at work I experienced with that team, that client at that point in my life. As a matchmaker of creative talent, Brent was #1.

Tony Granger – Bozell
Those of you who know me are probably surprised to see Tony’s name on the ‘best’ list considering he fired me. But without Tony, I wouldn’t be where I am today. He taught me how to dig deeper into myself to find the really great ideas. He pushed me like no creative director before or since. I also learned how I didn’t want to act in front of people. He was a difficult man to work for. I never felt like I was on his team. I did everything I could to avoid him, right up until I was asked to leave the office.
Thank you, Tony. I did learn something from you.

The Worst: (Since these people are still alive, I will change their names)

Curveball O’Drunk – McCann
The man had a drinking problem and you couldn’t show him work after lunch. I would work hours and hours and hours on a project, just to watch him kill everything. The next morning he asked to see the work, as if the meeting the afternoon before didn’t happen. I quit McCann while he was my boss.

Guy SeeHowSmartIAm – McCann
He was the sole copywriter and Associate Creative Director on a brand for so long, he felt like he owned it. His taste was awful. We used to come up with really bad ideas on purpose to see if he’d like them. We actually had a contest with all the creative in the group to see who could write the worst ad and have Guy approve it.
I was never ‘bad’ enough.

Silly South African – Bozell
“I want to own the color red.” Excuse me? “I want to own the color red” And how do you plan on doing that? “Isn’t that your job?” I see. I can’t tell you the strange arguments I had with this guy. I didn’t last long. But neither did he.

The Worst of All Time:

I’m Married To Someone’s Famous Brother – Ketchum
Easily the worst creative director I ever worked for. Luckily she didn’t really want to work, so she didn’t bother me too much. She liked music. She liked ideas with song lyrics rewritten. He liked execution over idea. I don’t know what I was thinking when I took a job working for her. But I couldn’t wait to get out.

At the end of my career, I’m sure I’ll look back and be thankful that I worked with many more great people that jerks. I’ll love that I’ve had a long and fruitful career. That I did some great work. Hopefully I’ve mentored the next generation of great talent. And 10 years from now someone isn’t writing a blog about me in the bad column. But you never know.

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