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The Role of an Art Director

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Q - How is your agency structured?

A - We have about 300 people in our creative department, which is big. Each group has about 10 to 12 people, and each group has accounts assigned to it. There are usually about three or four accounts per group.

Usually there are about twenty-five or thirty groups; three floors of creative people. After I was gone for a year, I went back to visit and a man from ly old group asked where I had been, whose group I was in now. I told him I didn't work there anymore.



Most accounts have at least two teams assigned to them on a permanent basis-a senior team and a junior team. It's the senior team's responsibility to give out assignments and make sure they all get done and get done well. Who gets what assignment depends on workloads and how much time you have to complete the assignment. When there's time crunch, like when we only have a week to come up with a new campaign on our brand, everyone pitches in. Both teams do the assign-lent, and both teams present to our creative director, who chooses what does to the client and what will be the agency recommendation. A time crunch is a good opportunity for everyone to get a crack at doing TV. Often it's the junior team's commercials that get sold.

The structure of our agency is different than that of most other agencies. Usually there's one creative director and one associate creative director's under him or her. Then under each of these associate creative directors are senior writers and senior art directors. Then under these senior people are groups of individuals who work for them. The people who are in one group always work in that one group.

Here, there are four creative directors, and under them are all the creative people. If the creative directors have an assignment come up, they call two people-an art director and a copywriter-from the group fellow them. Usually, in other agencies, if you're assigned to an account, you work on it for a long time, and you don't work on anything else. Here, everybody has a shot at each assignment.

Q - What would an average day be like?

A - I always look at the schedule of the accounts we're working on to see what stage they're in-if it's been given to the client, in production, or whatever. I always end up doing a layout first thing in the morning. There is always something to do. I'll start doing rough thumb nail sketches and then go in and work with the writer on something that we might end up presenting the same day. Usually I have another job going that I have to spend time on. Photographer and illustrator representatives are always coming by.

You get an assignment and meet with an account executive. Together you look at what the strongest selling point is and if people need it or want it. After you send the account people away, you have a discussion with your writer. This is a difficult process. Sometimes neither one of you is motivated to do anything right away, so you go to lunch.

You start working just in time to call it a day, and you'll work on tomorrow. That goes on for three or four days until you start running out of time. Then you start getting frantic and put down anything. You take it up to the creative director, and he always says, "I hate it. It's awful. G back downstairs and do more work. This can go on for a week or a yea until one of the creative directors thinks that you're ready to present t the client. Then the account executive takes over.

Q - Do you participate in presentations to clients?

A - Normally the creative director, the writer, the art director, and the account executive who worked on the project make the presentation The art director isn't just back in the studio doing the art work, he or she is also presenting and selling.

Q - How much time do you put in?

A - This has been a pretty civilized summer, so basically it's beer just 9:00 to 5:00. They're full days, I keep busy. Sometimes, though, I gel in a crunch and have to stay late, sometimes I come in at 8:30 and leave at 7:00. There was a while at my old agency when I was just nuts. We would come in at 8:00 and not leave until 10:00. That went on for three months, and everybody was losing their mind.

Advertising demands a lot of time. You go through dry periods where you can take three-hour lunches. But on the average I spend al least sixty to sixty-five hours a week. When I first started, I spent about seventy-five hours-around fourteen hours a day-in the paste-up room. If anyone plans on being successful, they better plan on working hard, otherwise they won't go anywhere. Now I'm down to ten to twelve hours a day. The agency is a little slow.

Creative directors have certain accounts, which they staff with copywriters, art directors, and producers as they see fit. My creative director decided that my copywriter and I would work together. We were put together for a new business pitch, and it worked out very well. I have got the business. Then we did another assignment together, and that worked out really well too. My copywriter and I have been a team now or about four years. I guess we've developed a certain style together. My creative director knows and counts on this style, and will often say, "Oh, let's give it to them-it's the kind of thing they do well together."

For a long time all I did was fashion accounts, and for a while ill I did was service accounts. Now I'm doing mostly consumer goods. I feel it's important to get experience on different types of accounts. Since I work at a large agency, it's probably easier for me to move around on different accounts. It helps keep the job challenging and exciting.
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Madison Currin - Greenville, NC
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