Dude, where’s my art director?

In the creative world, which claims to innovate and push boundaries on a daily basis, there are still some bits which steadfastly refuse to move. The remnants of previous eras, long-since rusted but still oiled regularly to keep up appearances. These ‘traditional’ – read ‘somewhat outdated’ – practices are the creaky, steampunk boiler room pipes of ad agencies, installed yonks ago and never updated because ‘they still work perfectly well’.

One of those things is the rigid idea of a copywriter/art director creative team as the be-all and end-all. If you’re trying to get in on your own, you’re plum out of luck, sunshine.

I’ve never really understood this mentality of ‘we only want pairs’, if I’m honest, and that’s probably because I’ve never been half of a creative team. Even if I were, my height means I’d only comprise a third of the team at best. This has left me at a very visible disadvantage when it comes to working agency side.

Being a solo copywriter in a creative environment is like being single in a room full of married people. I suppose it doesn’t help that I am actually single. People in adland frequently ask me where my art director is, as if I’m supposed to have one surgically attached to my hip.

I get that agencies need both copywriters and art directors. (They need a lot of other people, too.) I don’t know why they’re meant to spend much of their careers tied together, like two kids who love parkour bound by someone’s mother’s dressing gown cord and forced to enter a three-legged walking race.

Working with an art director would be lovely, don’t misunderstand me there – I’ll happily bounce my many and varied ideas off of anyone you put in front of me. But I wouldn’t expect that person to have to put up with me and my uncertain career path for the rest of my working life. What if I move cities? What if another agency likes the cut of my jib? What if I just get a bit bored? That should all impact me alone, and not the unwitting creative partner contractually obliged to share my desk.

The great thing about us creatives is that you can (more or less) bung any random combination of people into a room with a brief and we’ll come up with a kickass idea. And we’ll keep on doing it even as some people leave and new people come in. That’s exactly what SSZ has been doing for years now – long may it continue without anyone telling me I need to shut up and go home.

The whole point of being creative is that there are no limits on that creativity imposed by the presence of other people. I’m relatively new and shiny around here, and I’ve yet to have a post rejected just because there isn’t a graphic designer hovering over my shoulder to make it look nice. The ideas and concepts that an art director can come up with don’t suddenly disappear if their usual writer isn’t around, and vice versa.

You might think I sound bitter about this particular issue. Maybe I do. I’m adland’s nosy neighbour, the snarky one who looks enviously over the garden wall at their well-tended rockery. It seems without an arty partner I’m not invited round for tea – I didn’t quite realise the +1 was compulsory. If anyone out there will accept me as I am, with just a large box of Earl Grey tea and a scarily vivid imagination, then do drop me a line.

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