One of the best creative directors I ever worked under, Jeremy Craigen of DDB London, has many different talents. For example, he has a sixth sense about directors, is great with music, and has an acute understanding of brand tone of voice.

But his best skill - his superpower, in fact - is his willingness to say 'no'.


The way advertising works, there is actually a constant pressure on the creative director to say 'yes'. The suits want him to say yes because they want to have work to show, and don't want to call the client to put the meeting back. The traffic people want him to say yes because they want briefs to keep moving through the system; time is money. And of course, the creatives want him to say yes, because they want to get their ideas made.

So the CD is sitting there, looking at the work, while the creatives are looking at him, their eyes pleading in the style of the cat voiced by Antonio Banderas in Puss In Boots. It may be that the work isn't bad. It may be on brief, and rather buyable. Everyone in the room may want him to say yes to it, especially if they feel that the client (not yet in the room) would say yes to if if they were.

But Jeremy would still say no. A lot. Nearly all the time, in fact. He would find things wrong with the work that you had never even considered were a problem until he raised them. He would see potential in every brief, and smoke you out straight away if you were trying to sneak something average through, even on an average brief. And if it was a brief that everyone saw had potential, his office would become a killing field of ideas. He was a First World War machine-gunner, mowing concepts down by the dozen. So any idea that did make it through his defences, had to be superhumanly good.

However, I wonder if he can still do that. For Jeremy always seemed to have time.

There were entire months to come up with a new campaign idea. Weeks on a TV brief. Many days for a print ad. And if it hadn't been cracked in that time, more time seemed to magically appear.

Nowadays, we're all being given less and less time. It's often cited as a factor in why "the work isn't as good as it used to be." We all know that less time compromises production quality, means less time for the creatives to think of ideas, less time for the planners to write great briefs… 


But crucially, it's also eroded the creative director's ability to say 'no'.

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