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Jan 07, 2004
How To

Career Tips from an Agency Chief Creative Officer

SUMMARY: No summary available.
Ever wonder how to get a head honcho creative position at a top ad agency? We contacted Lor Gold, Draft Chicago's Chief Creative Officer, to find out.

"When you finally attain the role of Creative Director -- which is no easy thing -- then Group Creative Director, then Executive Creative Director, then you get so lofty that nobody pays any attention to you and that's Chief Creative Officer," he says.

Gold started his career in Los Angeles, worked for a time in Colorado, then landed in Chicago where he's worked for agencies large and small, and with a variety of client bases. Here are the key career lessons he's learned along the way:

-> Lesson #1: Be willing to move around (even if it hurts)

Leaving Colorado for Chicago was a tough decision for Gold, though he doesn't regret it. "I was running a very nice agency there, and then weird stuff started happening like consolidation of agencies," he says.

Consolidation impacted him hard. He and his clients were all very loyal to each other, he says. But when he lost the Safeway account -- which until then was regionally marketed -- to an agency in San Francisco, he realized that loyalty alone wouldn't guarantee him clients or even his job.

"I made a conscious decision to go to Chicago, because no place in Colorado is considered a Mecca of advertising," he says.

Though he didn't want to give up being loyal to his firm, it was a good time to move around and gain experience, because that was the norm. "It worked out very nicely for me, and we've gotten to a place where culture is important again," he says.

-> Lesson #2: Sharpen your skills

So how do you reach the pinnacle of Creative Director or higher? Of course, it depends on the agency, Gold acknowledges. "Sometimes those titles are cheap and you get them easily, sometimes they're much more difficult." He suggests honing your skills in three areas:

o Breadth of personal experience

First, gather a vast array of experiences in various cultures, demographics, and parts of the country.

"When I was in my 20s, people were doing two things a night," he says -- for example, dinner and watching TV, or hanging out and drinking a beer.

Today, that age group averages seven activities in an evening. "So what is the role of creative in that communication? You really have to have a lot of experiences to be able to figure those kinds of things out."

o Unexpected ideas (for the expected results)

"The price of entry is the ability to come up with the
unexpected," Gold says. "You should know what your results are going to be but your presentation of the idea has to be something fresh."

"You should only have one filter and that is: is it good stuff or bad stuff," he says. "The good stuff shows an appreciation for an insight to the consumer that's undeniable and expresses that insight in a way that's fresh and different."

o Selling your ideas to clients

"Make someone's mouth water," Gold suggests. "That's a whole other skill, that's a salesmanship role."

-> Lesson #3: Take jobs that make you nervous

"If your long-term goal is to really stay in the business and make a difference, you have to try experiences that almost make you nervous," Gold says. Does that include client-side experience? "If client-side makes you nervous, then *yes*, try it."

As far as vertical markets, Gold suggests putting in some time with promotions and merchandising.

"I think merchandising is the wave of the future with
electronics, and in some ways it's swinging back to retail
experience," he says. "To me, that's where the newest ideas are flourishing. What do you do in experiential and retail? Those are areas that are most influential right now."

-> Lesson #4: Avoid politics when possible

If you try to promote yourself within your company, it's going to be inevitably viewed as a political move, Gold warns. The key is for the company to notice your work, and be open to the creative endeavors of its staff and teams.

The real world doesn't always work that way, though. In that case, the only thing to do is focus on the clients and their customers and do the best job you can do.

"Eventually, you *will* get noticed," he says.

Politics exist everywhere. If you're really good at what you do, the politics become secondary.

But politics always play a role when everyone is competing for the same project. "Everyone wants to do great things and they're always going to steal from each other," Gold says. If a company is "only going to do one TV spot but they have six teams working on it, it screams politics."

And that's where a creative director comes in, he says. "A good creative director lets the work be the thing."
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