Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Is there a place for Creative Directors on the Board of a business?

By David O’Hearns, founder and MD at Dawn, a creative agency

Creativity has traditionally been undervalued in the workplace. Passed over in favour of the technical skills – tech, finance, strategy – creativity has frequently been an afterthought. But in the last decade, there has been a shift. Creative Directors are becoming more of a familiar sight within the marketing structure of businesses. Their role in guiding the marketing team in its numerous endeavours is becoming more appreciated – and yet they still rarely have a place on the Board. Why is this the case? And should it really still be that way?

What is the value of a Creative Director?

To understand the value of a Creative Director, we first need to truly understand the value of creativity to a business. Creativity provides an access point to customers – it makes a noise, it attracts attention, it captivates the imagination, builds brand awareness, and draws in a greater market share. Both in the consumer and business to business (B2B) arena. But as well as working on a marketing level, creativity can support internal cohesion, helping a business to work better. Whether through enhanced internal communication, the building and celebration of a company’s values, or the cementing of campaign values within a team’s psyche. 

The role of the Creative Director is to shape the creative future of the brand and influence its direction. But it isn’t a role that necessarily needs to work in isolation. Using creativity’s power to drive revenue and performance, the Creative Director can support and complement operational needs throughout a business, whether applying creativity to enable the Finance Director to fulfil their objectives more quickly, or finding new ways for the HR team to improve employee engagement. It’s time for brands to look beyond the obvious and understand that the remit of the Creative Director is so much more than marketing. And that with the right person in place, they can transform both the image of the business, and the way that it works. 

Why don’t more businesses have a Creative Director?

Creativity isn’t recognised in the same way as the harder skills; it’s not deemed important. That’s one of the reasons why, when economies need to be made in a business, the first cuts usually fall in the creative and marketing department (in part because they have no one on the Board to protect them). But it’s an illogical response because – as social media has shown us – it’s creativity that builds brands. Which raises the question of where this viewpoint that creativity lacks value originates. And it’s partly a societal problem. 

When a teenager goes to their school’s Careers Advisor saying they want to be an artist, a writer, a musician, they are gently steered away. They are pointed at more ‘realistic’ roles, careers with more aspirational value – banker, lawyer, teacher, doctor – traditional roles of a ‘serious’ nature. Art college is still viewed as a ‘Mickey Mouse’ avenue, an option for wastrels to string out their education before getting a ‘real’ job ‘in the real world’. So, kids with that creative flair that carries so much incredible potential, go through life feeling that the things they are good at are without worth. And society – including the people they are told to look up to – keeps reinforcing that idea by dismissing creatives as fun but unimportant gimmickry. 

It’s time for that to stop. 

Should Creative Directors be on the Board of a business?

The short answer here is, ‘yes’, for a vast array of reasons. Most businesses are boring. Whether you look locally or globally, there is a universal lack of creativity – and that’s as true in the consumer sector as it is in B2B. This is not only holding businesses back from reaching near-endless potential, but it’s stifling employees, fostering lacklustre workplaces, and brand values that smack of nothing more than lip service. 

With a Creative Director position on the Board, creativity can be used to shape business strategy, enabling brand values to be applied across all divisions of a business – not just the framing of promotional campaigns but to feed creative working practices, reducing employee attrition in the process. 

Creative Directors are underused. Creativity is underappreciated. But for businesses to thrive in a world of increased competition and growing consumer sophistication, those two statements need to change.