I'm delighted to have Mark Denton guest-writing this one.

Mark is one of Britain’s most successful and best-loved commercials directors; who can forget Bad Barnet? He also runs Creative Circle, his own production company (Coy! communications) and is basically just an all-round top chap.


It really comes down to getting the right person at the beginning. When I was a Creative (Scamp note – Mark’s partner was Chris Palmer) we did 11 jobs with Vaughan & Anthea. We just worked well together, and there was a mutual respect.

When you’re looking at treatments, make your decision based on what the Director says, and your gut feel, not what they write. Treatments are often just a string of clichés anyway. Have you noticed how every single one of them begins “I love the script”?

If you are able to snag a top director, just let them do what they want to do. I had Ridley Scott agree to do a job for me once, but I let him go because I didn’t like his treatment. Looking back on it, his idea was pretty good and I was an idiot.

Beat out all the questions before shooting starts, so you’re never sitting there on set wondering “what the hell are they doing now?”

During the process of making a commercial, there is no one single way to deal with Directors, because every Director is different. But there will always be some way that gets a result. Sometimes it’s putting your arm around someone, sometimes it’s giving them a kick up the arse.

Creatives don’t seem quite as bolshie as they used to. Chris & I used to do our own storyboards, then turn up on set with stopwatches, and tell directors “that shot’s taking too long.” We were a nightmare.

Maybe that’s going too far - make it too hard for them and they might mentally give up and just start going through the motions. And if you’ve chosen someone because you like their work, you’ve got to respect their way of working. You want to get out of them whatever they can give. So for example if they want their space, and prefer comments to be filtered through a Producer, then do that.

Personally, I’m the opposite. I believe the Director and Creatives should be a team of three. I like Creatives to be standing right next to me, by the camera. It really aggravates me when the Creatives are off reading a book or playing with their mobiles. Not involved means not excited. But don’t go and tell the actors what to do – that’s what I’m being paid a lot of money to do. And actors like to hear one voice.

Creatives also need to shield their Director, to some extent. Clients are getting more and more difficult. They are getting more involved. Nowadays, they can pick a typeface on their home computer. Creatives need to have the bollocks to stand up to Clients and Account Handlers. Especially when it comes to the edit, the post, and everything that goes into finishing-up a commercial. Be champions of your own idea. Don’t let the forces of darkness water it down.

Previous Tips:

Don't Write Ads, Write Strategies; How To Choose Where To Work; Working Outside London; What Would John Webster Do?; What Would Paul & Nigel Do?; The Hidden Flaw; How To Write Copy; Be Funny All The Way Through; How To Do Virals; How To Get A Pay Rise; Be Wary Of Punding; Challenge The Brief; Tell The Truth; Playing To Lose; How To Write Headlines; How To Do Direct; How To Do Radio; How To Do Press; How To Do TV; How To Do Digital; How To Do Posters; Look At Weird Shit; Presenting To The Client; Presenting To The Team; Presenting To The Creative Director; How To Deal With Rejection; Look Creative; Don't Be Afraid To Ask; Your Idea Has To Be 120%; Read Iain's Tips; Don't Behave; How To Discuss Ideas; Read Hugh's Tips; How To Get A Job In Advertising Part IV - How To Turn A Placement Into A Job; How To Get A Job In Advertising Part III - How To Approach Agencies (re-print of Tip No. 7); How To Get A Job In Advertising Part II - How To Put A Book Together; How To Get A Job In Advertising Part I - FAQ; Make Friends With Traffic; Get Reference; Don't Stop Too Soon; Be Very; Breaking Up; Working Well With Your Partner; Finding The Right Partner; How To Approach Agencies; Never-Seen-Before Footage; Dicketts' Finger; Two Blokes In The Pub; Play Family Fortunes; Should You Take A Bad Job?; Don't Overpolish