CEO vs Creative Director

In Creative Directors, Wannabe CEO on January 16, 2011 at 10:51 am

In a game of advertising Top Trumps, who’d win – CEO or Creative Director? Who would score the more points (notice how, as literate CEO, I use the comparative ‘more’ because I’m comparing two things rather than the superlative ‘most’ which refers to more than two). But enough of early point-scoring. This will be an unbiased analysis. And of course, you’re all welcome to express your views in the Comments section below. I’ve selected four categories, so lets get going.


Who is the more influential? Outsiders would invariably say, ‘the CEO, of course’. And they may well be right. But it is more complicated than that otherwise we wouldn’t be having this debate. Although I lead our whole agency and my name is at the top of the organogram, (1.5cm above that of Sebastian, our Creative Director, – more if you use the enlarging tool), I have to admit that he does have a platoon of fiercely loyal troops in his department. Why is a little beyond me. Others in the agency have described their creative colleagues variously as pig-headed, unkempt, surly and arrogant, but there is a bond between those creatives that can’t simply be traced back to a jelly mould. They do hang on his every word and brook no criticism of him. So for the level of devotion that Sebastian inspires in his underlings, I’m declaring this section a draw. 1-1.


This is quite difficult for me to stomach, but I have a fear that Sebastian is actually paid more than I am. Shocking, I know, but I inherited him when I joined and the Chairman keeps such details to himself and his beancounters in NYC. I’ve also seen salary surveys in Campaign Magazine that suggest this might not be unique to our agency. It’s seemingly rife throughout the industry. No wonder Sebastian and his peers act like Real Madrid Galacticos if they’re having money flung at their feet. It only serves to make my job more difficult when I have to put him in his place and tell him why fish dressed as monks in an underwater monastery won’t sell more tuna. However, money talks and much as I disagree with this tawdry state of affairs, it’s 2-1 Sebastian.

Lateral Thinking

A shoo-in for the Creative Director. No contest. A sine qua non of any advertising agency. The Creative Director must be most lateral man in the room. Surely? Well, prepare to have your preconceptions brutally challenged! I suggest that any good CEO needs to shape-shift like old Proteus. The ability to switch between counting beans, acquiring competitors, cajoling clients, marshalling pitch teams, deciphering creative work andĀ selling it with the panache of a market-stall trader requires a lateral mind like no other. Creative Directors just swan into the agency mid-morning and rarely surface from their den before home time. What’s creative about doing the one thing every day, over and over and over again in the same untidy, uninspiring office? Nothing. Exactly. Unanimous win for the CEO. 2-2.

Online Cred

We all live in a digital world. I’m no exception. I tweet, RT, DM, #ff, update status, link in, check in, google goggle and blog. Sebastian does none of these willingly. But this so isn’t a contest between him and me. No. For every CEO in adland, there’s a Creative Director. This is about a rivalry being played out in every advertising agency across the globe: a rivalry to match the Capulets vs the Montagues, the Blues vs the Reds, the bulls vs the bears. And to settle this last category of who’s at the vanguard of the digital revolution that’s sweeping our planet, I’m going to let the medium proclaim the winner. Type #ceo and #creativedirector into Twitter and check out which topic is trending more. See for yourself the jaw-dropping difference. Gape when you discover which is winning by a factor of over 100. Marvel at who is leading the advertising industry fearlessly forward into the unknown of the 21st century. All it remains for me to say, with the greatest humility, is: CEO 3 Creative Director 2.

  1. […] me and I them. They aren’t from Sebastian, our Creative Director, despite our long-standing feud. He’s more the type to charge into the office and stab me in person than play games with […]

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