Defining your role as an advertising creative
Creatives come in all shapes and sizes beyond Art Directors and Copywriters. Here's some advice if you still haven't decided what creative career you'd like to take.
These days creative departments consist of more than just art directors and copywriters. So you've never had more choice when it comes to defining your role as a creative. Some people will know instinctively what role they want to take on.
Art directors and copywriters
These traditional creative roles still dominate the advertising landscape. These creatives are exactly what most agencies are looking for. All adverts need artwork and/or copy and both imagery and the written language are key when it comes to communication in general.
A creative without a speciality is a creative who's not an expert in anything.
There is a fierce competition in becoming a fully fledged creative at an agency, the number of people applying for these roles out number all others, so it's important you show off why you're the best, what different perspective you will bring and most importantly what you can bring the company.
Other specific roles
There are many creative roles that exist beyond those two above including coders, illustrators, animators, sculptors, engineers, wizards etc. If you see yourself fitting into one of these groups or something else entirely then you may want to play to your strengths rather than trying to shoehorn yourself into an art director or copywriter role.
If you walk into an interview calling yourself an creative engineer then you're going to have the advantage of interesting and intriguing your interviewer. But on the other hand, you may have to convince some agencies (particularly older, traditional ones) why having an engineer would be good for them. And if you bill yourself as "different from the usual creatives" then creative directors will be disappointed if your work is similar to anything they've ever seen before.
More and more creatives are refusing to define themselves at all and simply choose to remain nothing more than a creative. Teams often state "we both do a bit of art and we both do a bit of copy so we don't bother with strict roles". That's a little like saying "Our economy's @£*! so let's cut spending and reduce our deficit" – makes sense initially until you think about what that actually means.
A creative without a speciality is a creative who's not an expert in anything. The original point of teams was to put two experts together so that their different knowledge and skills compliment each other. And no, your combined talent does not equal expertise in multiple fields. If separately you both know the basics of copywriting then together you still only know the basics of copywriting.
Put it this way, if you were starting a business, who would you hire to run it? A. Four generic businessmen who all know a little bit about finance, a little bit about marketing, a little bit about sales and a little bit about production OR B. A skilled accountant, a marketing expert, a dedicated sales rep and an experienced production manager?
Solo creatives will probably do better as a generic. They'll be able to take advantage of small agencies on a tight budget looking to get a two-for-one deal and larger agencies looking to fill in gaps. But as a team, an agency gets none of the advantages of hiring a jack of all trades.
Or maybe none of that matters
Let's face it, if your portfolio is pure excellence then no one's going to care what you call yourself. You could have business cards with "Deranged serial killer and recent escapee from maximum security prison" and you could still walk into a job in the advertising industry if you produced great work.
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