Career Focus: Creative Direction

Cerebra Submitted by on the 12th of April 2016

Our latest listicles detail the skills, resources and other tips you need to become a rockstar creative.

We’re spending this month celebrating one of our company’s values; Act Bravely. It’s incredibly fitting, then, that we turn our Career Focus this month to the most important creative role in any agency.

This month, Cerebra’s Agency gained two Associate Creative Directors – Leyash Pillay, formerly a Senior Content & Community Manager, and Francois Botes, a brand new arrival to our growing team. They are led by our beloved and brilliant Executive Creative Director, Jacques Shalom.


See our previous Career Focus instalments: Community Management, Design & Content Marketing.


In becoming a Creative Director, you are generally moving away from being the one who actually creates the work to one who inspires others to do so at the best of their ability. At Cerebra, and many other agencies, our CDs maintain an important role in the creative output, but their primary role is to lead and motivate the broader creative teams.

It’s not always easy making that move – after all, if you’ve reached the point of becoming a CD, it’s very likely that you love creating, and you probably aren’t fascinated by the admin and stress of managing a large group of people. You’ll be the one to take the blame for failure, and often not the credit for success, and you’ll have to step in when the going gets rough. But, if you can think quickly, act decisively, and demonstrate a genuine interest in the work being produced by your team, you will be able to lead them through thick and thin.

3 skills you need: 

  1. Speed and agility. Every project will throw you a curve ball at some point, so a good Creative Director needs cat-like reflexes to be able to make decisions quickly and under pressure. Be prepared for any questions mishaps, dragons and fire-breathing donkeys.
  2. Be a leader not a boss. Getting your hands dirty with your team will bring much more confidence to the project.
  3. Sales. Sell the crap out of it. A good idea without selling it is just meh. A brilliant director can sell you anything without batting an eye. If you believe in it, the client will too. You need to be able to talk the talk and sell your ideas.

3 personal attributes you need

  1. Balanced EQ – You shouldn’t take things personally because someone will shoot your idea in the face repeatedly at some point.
  2. Hunger – Desire to learn everything about everything in the universe. And be able to eat unnecessary amounts of pizza to distract yourself during times of creative block.
  3. Objectivity – You can’t fall in love with an idea – especially your own – if there’s something better on the table.

3 books you should read

  1. Hey Whipple Squeeze This (The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads) – Luke Sullivan
  2. Damn Good Advice – George Louis
  3. How We Learn – Benedict Carey

3 Cerebra eBooks you should read

  1. The Social Identity. It’s important to understand the fundamentals behind your brand in order to be able to produce the best possible work to represent it.
  2. Guide to Social Business Principle: CATS Rule the Internet Producing great quality content for your brands goes beyond simply learning the mechanics of each platform. It’s imperative to also understand and implement the guiding principles that form the cornerstone of the social business era.
  3. The Employed Media Opportunity. Understanding how your employees can affect your brand’s performance is key.

3 ways to learn the skills you need

  1. Be the sponge. Learn from your peers, listen to and watch everything they do. Research. Always look for more. Ask questions. Never stop asking – the outcome could be worse if you don’t.
  2. Find a mentor at the start of your career, be a sponge and model your behaviour after theirs – they are powerful for a reason – once you have the grounding, add your own flavour and become a mentor to someone else.
  3. Be humble. You know a lot less than you think you do. You’re more open to learning honestly when you accept this. 

3 online resources you should follow

  1. Watch the Beautiful Losers documentary, directed by Aaron Rose and Joshua Leonard.
  2. Monocle 24 Radio – they have a variety of shows that cover politics, design, urbanisation, entrepreneurship, cinema, music etc. The more you know about the world the more you can connect together.
  3. First Round Review – “We believe that there is powerful, untapped knowledge out there that can transform the way people build technology.” – From the manifesto on their website.

3 tips from our team of experts

  1. Have the will to learn. Your work will be criticised more than it will be admired, learn not to take it personally and rather use the negative to your advantage.
  2. Be curious about absolutely everything.
  3. Break things. Systems, processes, old models, ideas. Break them and strip them down to their bare bones and then have fun putting them back together again.


If you think you’re ready to make the leap, and you’d like to use those skills within a team of incredibly driven and talented people, then get in touch with Cerebra. We’re always looking for the best, so check out our careers page.